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may we presume yet farther, and speak of his individual works? Although there is no one of them that does not bear marks of his unequalled hand -scarcely one which is not remembered by the strong affection of love and delight towards some of its characters,—yet to all his readers they seem marked by very different degrees of excellence, and a few are distinguished above all the rest. Perhaps the four that may be named, as those

ich have been to the popular feeling of his countrymen the principal plays of their great dramatist, and which would be recognised as his master-works by philosophical criticism, are Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet, and Lear. The first of these has the most entire tragic action of any of his plays. It has, throughout, one awful interest, which is begun, carried through, and concluded with the piece. This interest of the action is a perfect example of a most important dramatic unity, preserved entire. The matter of the interest is one which has always held a strong sway over human sympathy, though mingled with abhorrence, the rise and fall of ambition. Men look on the darings of this passion with strong sympathy, because it is one of their strongest inherent feelings—the aspiring of the mind through its consciousness of power shown in the highest forms of human life. But it is decidedly a historical, not a poetical interest. Shakspeare has made it poetical by two things chiefly-not the character of Macbeth, which is itself historical--but by the preternatural agencies with which the whole course of the story is involved, and by the character of Lady Macbeth. The illusion of the dagger and the sleep-walking may be added as individual circumstances tending to give a character of imagination to the whole play. The human interest of the piece is the acting of the purpose of ambition, and the fate which attends it--the high capacities of blinded desire in the soul, and the moral retribution which overrules the affairs of men. But the poetry is the intermingling of preternatural agency with the transactions of life-threads of events spun by unearthly hands—the scene of the cave which blends unreality with real life—the preparation and circumstances of midnight murderthe superhuman calmness of guilt, in its elated strength, in a woman's soul--and the dreaminess of mind which is brought on those whose spirits have drunk the cup of their lust. . The language of the whole is perhaps more purely tragic than that of any other of Shakspeare's plays; it is simple, chaste, and strong-rarely breaking out into fanciful expression, but a vein of imagination always running through. The language of Macbeth himself is often exceedingly beautiful. Perhaps something may be owing to national remembrances and associations; but we have observed that, in Scotland at least, Macbeth produces a deeper, a more breathless, and a more perturbing passion, in the audience, than any other drama.

If Macbeth is the most perfect in the tragic


action of the story, the most perfect in tragic passion is Othello. There is nothing to determine unhappiness to the lives of the two principal per

Their love begins auspiciously; and the renown, high favour, and high character of Othello, seem to promise a stability of happiness to himself and the wife of his affections. But the blood which had been scorched in the veins of his race, under the suns of Africa, bears a poison that swells up to confound the peace of the Christian marriagebed. He is jealous; and the dreadful overmastering passion which disturbs the steadfastness of his own mind, overflows upon his life and her's, and consumes them from the earth. The external action of the play is nothing—the causes of events are none; the whole interest of the story, the whole course of the action, the causes of all that happens, live all in the breast of Othello. The whole destiny of those who are to perish lies in his passion. Hence the high tragic character of the playshowing one false illusory passion ruling and confounding all life. All that is below tragedy in the passion of love is taken away at once by the awful character of Othello, for such he seems to us to be designed to be. He appears never as a lover-but at once as a husband; and the relation of his love made dignified, as it is a husband's justification of his marriage, is also dignified, as it is a soldier's relation of his stern and perilous life.

It is a courted, not a wooing, at least unconsciouslywooing love; and though full of tenderness, yet is


it but slightly expressed, as being solely the gentle affection of a strong mind, and in no wise a passion. " And I loved her, that she did pity them.” Indeed he is not represented as a man of passion, but of stern, sedate, immoveable mood. “I have seen the cannon, that, like the devil, from his very arm puffed his own brother"-and can he be angry

? Montalto speaks with the same astonishment, calling him respected for wisdom and gravity. Therefore, it is no love story. His love itself, as long as it is happy, is perfectly calm and serene, the protecting tenderness of a husband. It is not till it is disordered that it appears as a passion. Then is shown a power in contention with itself—a mighty being struck with death, and bringing up from all the depths of life convulsions and agonies. It is no exhibition of the power of the passion of love, but of the passion of life vitally wounded, and selfovermastering. What was his love? He had placed all bis faith in good--all his imagination of purity, all his tenderness of nature upon one heart; and at once that heart seems to him an ulcer. It is that recoiling agony that shakes his whole body—that having confided with the whole power of his soul, he is utterly betrayed—that having departed from the pride and might of his life, which he held in his conquest and sovereignty over men, to rest himself upon a new and gracious affection, to build himself and his life upon one beloved heart,-having found a blessed affection, which he had passed through life without knowing,



--and having chosen, in the just and pure goodness of his will, to take that affection instead of all other hopes, desires, and passions, to live by,—that at once he sees it sent out of existence, and a damned thing standing in its place. It is then that he feels a forfeiture of all power, and a blasting of all good. If Desdemona had been really guilty, the greatness would have been destroyed, because his love would have been unworthy-false. But she is good, and his love is most perfect, just, and good. That a man should place his perfect love on a wretched thing, is miserably debasing, and shocking to thought; but that, loving perfectly and well, he should, by hellish human circumvention, be brought to distrust, and dread, and abjure his own perfect love, is most mournful indeed—it is the infirmity of our good nature, wrestling in vain with the strong powers of evil. Moreover, he would, had Desdemona been false, have been the mere victim of fate; whereas, he is now in a manner his own victim. His happy love was heroic tenderness his injured love is terrible passion ; and disordered power, engendered within itself to its own destruction, is the height of all tragedy. The character of Othello is perhaps the most greatly drawn, the most heroic of any of Shakspeare's actors; but it is, perhaps, that one also of which his reader last acquires the intelligence. The intellectual and

. warlike energy of his mind- his tenderness of affection-his loftiness of spirit—his frank, generous magnanimity-impetuosity like a thunderbolt, and

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