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which we were in the dark. It is usually overlooked that the supposed dark era was not universal, but partial and successive, or alternate ; that the dark age of England was not the dark age of Italy; but that one country was in its light and vigour, while another was in its gloom and bondage. The Reformation sounded through Europe like a trumpet; from the king to the peasant there was an enthusiasm for knowledge; the discovery of a manuscript was the subject of an embassy. Erasmus read by moonlight because he could not afford a torch, and begged a penny, not for the love of charity, but for the love of learning. The three great points of attention were morals, religion, and taste; but it becomes necessary to distinguish in this age mere men of learning from men of genius; all, however, were close copyists of the ancients, and this was the only way by which the taste of mankind could be improved, and the understanding informed. Whilst Dante imagined himself a copyist of Virgil, and Ariosto of Homer, they were both unconscious of that greater power working within them, which carried them beyond their originals; for their originals were polytheists. All great discoveries bear the stamp of the age in which they were made: hence we perceive the effect of their purer religion, which was visible in their lives; and in reading their works, we should not content ourselves with the narration of events long since passed, but apply their maxims and conduct to our own.

Having intimated that times and manners lend their form and pressure to the genius, it may be useful to draw a slight parallel between the ancient and modern stage, as it existed in Greece and in England.—The Greeks were polytheists; their religion was local; the object of all their knowledge, science, and taste, was their Gods : their productions were, therefore, (if the expression may be allowed) statuesque ; the moderns we may designate as picturesque ; the end complete harmony. The Greeks reared a structure, which, in its parts and as a whole, filled the mind with the calm and elevated impression of perfect beauty and symmetrical proportion. The moderns, blending materials, produced one striking whole; this may be illustrated by comparing the Pantheon with York Minster or Westminster Abbey. Upon the same scale we may compare Sophocles with Shakspeare: in the one there is a completeness, a satisfying, an excellence on which the mind can rest; in the other we see a blended multitude of materials; great and little; magnificent and mean ; mingled, if we may so say, with a dissatisfying, or falling short of perfection; yet so promising of our progression, that we would not exchange it for that repose of mind which dwells on the forms of symmetry in acquiescent admiration of grace. This general characteristic of the ancient and modern poetry might be exemplified in a parallel of their ancient and modern music: the ancient music consisted of melody by the succession of pleasing sounds ; the modern

embraces harmony, the result of combination, and effect of the whole.

Great as was the genius of Shakspeare, his judgment was at least equal. Of this we shall be convinced, if we look round on the age, and compare the nature of the respective dramas of Greece and England, differing from the necessary dissimilitude of circumstances by which they are modified and influenced. The Greek stage had its origin in the ceremonies of a sacrifice, such as the goat to Bacchus ;-it were erroneous to call him only the jolly god of wine : among the ancients he was venerable; he was the symbol of that power which acts without our consciousness from the vital energies of nature, as Apollo was the symbol of our intellectual consciousness. Their heroes under his influence performed more than human actions; hence tales of their favourite champions soon passed into dialogue. On the Greek stage the chorus was always before the audience—no curtain dropped-change of place was impossible; the absurd idea of its improbability was not indulged. The scene cannot be an exact copy of nature, but only an imitation. If we can believe ourselves at Thebes in one act, we can believe ourselves at Athens in the next. There seems to be no just boundary but what the feelings prescribe. In Greece, however, great judgment was necessary where the same persons were perpetually before the audience. If a story lasted twenty-four hours or twenty-four years, it was equally improbable—they never attempted to

impose on the senses by bringing places to men, though they could bring men to places.

Unity of time was not necessary, where no offence was taken at its lapse between the acts, or between scene and scene; for where there were no acts or scenes, it was impossible rigidly to observe its laws. To overcome these difficulties, the judgment and great genius of the ancients supplied music, and with the charms of their poetry filled up the vacuity. In the story of the Agamemnon of Æschylus, the taking of Troy was supposed to be announced by the lighting of beacons on the Asiatic shore: the mind being beguiled by the narrative ode of the chorus embracing the events of the siege, hours passed as minutes, and no improbability was felt at the return of Agamemnon ; and yet, examined rigidly, he must have passed over from Troy in less than fifteen minutes. Another fact here presented itself, seldom noticed: with the ancients three plays were performed in one day; they were called Trilogies. In Shakspeare we may fancy these Trilogies connected into one representation. If Lear were divided into three, each part would be a play with the ancients; or take the three plays of Agamemnon, and divide them into acts, they would form one play:

1st Act would be the Usurpation of Ægisthus, and Murder of Agamemnon ;

2d. Revenge of Orestes, and Murder of his Mother;

3d. The Penance of Orestes;

consuming a time of twenty-two years: the three plays being but three acts, the dropping of the curtain was as the conclusion of a play.

Contrast the stage of the ancients with that of the time of Shakspeare, and we shall be struck with his genius: with them it had the trappings of royal and religious ceremony; with him it was a naked room, a blanket for a curtain ; but with his vivid appeals, the imagination figured it out

A field for monarchs. After the rupture of the Northern nations, the Latin language, blended with the modern, produced the Romant tongue, the language of the minstrels; to which term, as distinguishing their songs and fabliaux, we owe the word and the species of romance : the romantic may be considered as opposed to the antique, and from this change of manners, those of Shakspeare take their colouring. He is not to be tried by ancient and classic rules, but by the standard of his age. That law of unity which has its foundation, not in factitious necessity of custom, but in nature herself, is instinctively observed by Shakspeare.

A unity of feeling pervades the whole of his plays. In Romeo and Juliet all is youth and spring: it is youth with its follies, its virtues, its precipitancies; it is spring with its odours, flowers, and transiency: the same feeling commences, goes through, and ends the play. The old men, the Capulets and Montagues, are not common old men; they have an eagerness, an hastiness, a

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