« PreviousContinue »
Brother Martin thou saidst well! Falkenhelm, you have kept us in breath. (Falkenhelm does not answer, but walks up and down in great agitation.) Be of good courage, come, disarm; Where are your cloaths? I hope they have not been lost in the scuffle-(to the page) ask his pages. Open the baggage, and see that nothing is missing. I can lend you one of mine.
Fallenbelm. Let me remain as I am, it signifies not,
Gortz. I can give you a nice clean dress enough: to be sure it is only coarse stuff, 'tis grown too tight for me; I had it on at the marriage of his highness the Count Palatine, that day when your bishop shewed so much rancour against me. I had sunk two of his vessels on the Mayne about a fortnight before, and as I and Francis of Sickingen went into the Hart inn at Heidelberg; half way up the stairs there is a landing place with an iron railing, you know; and there stood the bishop, who shook hands with Francis as he passed up, and as I followed gave me too his hand. I laughed within myself, and said to the Landgrave of Hanau, who was always gracious to me, "The bishop took me by the hand, I'd wager any thing he did not know me." The bishop overheard me, for I spoke aloud on purpose, and coming up to me in a great passion, he said, "you have guessed right, it was only because I did not know you that I offered you my hand." My Lord, I answered, I perceived you mistook me, and since that was the case, there you have your hand again. Then the little man grew as red as a lobster with rage, and ran to complain of me to count Lewis, and the prince of Nassau, We have often laughed about it since.
Falkenhelm. I entreat you, leave me to myself.
Gortz. For what reason-(earnestly,) I pray you be at ease. You are in my power, but I will never misuse it.
Falkenhelm. I never felt a fear on that account. Your honor and your knighthood both forbid you.
Gortz. And you know well that they both are sacred to me.
Falkenhelm. I am a prisoner of the rest I am careless.
Gortz. You should not talk thus. Suppose you had to do with princes who would throw you loaded with chains into a dungeon, and perhaps command the watch to rouse you at every quarter from your sleep, or
[The attendants come in with cloaths, Falkenhelm disarms, and puts them on.]
Charles. Good morrow, Father.
Gortz. Good morrow boy, (kissing him) how have you been of
Charles. Very clever, father, my aunt says I am very clever,
Charles. Have you brought me any thing home?
Gartz. No; not this time.
Charles. Ive learnt a great deal since you've been gone, Shall I
tell you the story of the good boy?
Gortz. After dinner, after dinner.
Gorlz. Why, what may that be?
Charles. "Yarthausen is the name of a village and castle on the river Yart, which has belonged for two centuries by right and by inheritance to the Lords of Berlingen."
Gortz. Dost thou know the Lord of Berlingen? Charles. (Looks stedfastly at him.) Gortz (Aside, laughing) Through sheer learning he does not know his own father. (To the child) Why to whom does Yarthausen belong?
Charles. Yarthausen is a village and castle on the river Yart." Gortz. That was not what I asked: I was acquainted with every path, wood, and wild of it, before I knew what river, village, or castle meant. What, is thy mother in the kitchen?
Charles. She is getting some roast lamb and turnips ready.
Charles. It tastes better roasted.
Gortz Thou must ever have something set apart for thee. Falkenhelm, I will return to you immediately: I must go and see my wife. Come, Charles!
Charles. Who is that man?
Gortz. Go, make him welcome, and tell him to be chearful.
Why dinner will be ready directly.
Falkenhelm. (Taking him up in his arms and kissing him) Happy Child! who can imagine no greater evil than the delay of the dinner! God give you much joy of the boy! Berlingen.
Gortz. Where there is much light, there will also be strong shadow. Yet was he welcome to me. We will see what is to be done. [Exeunt Gortz and Charles.] We do not give this extract either as the best or the worst part of the whole; it conveys a tolerable idea of the execution of the play in general. The egotism and garrulity of the hero, by which the reader's attention to his importance is perpetually solicited, cannot fail to excite some disgust in the judicious admirers of Shakspeare; who will immediately recollect the calm dignity and unaffected sublimity of his heroic characters. It must, besides, occur to the critical reader, that the interest is much weakened by the author's custom of delineating characters by narratives of past events, instead of expressions of their present feelings. Where the German author runs into a multiplicity of little circumstances, which disperse and enfeeble instead of accumulating the reader's feelings, our bard would have seized the leading features with the boldness of a master, and have left the others in the shade,
We have, in our language, a writer of acknowleged genius, who closely resembles in manner the popular German authors, though he is not a dramatist; and if we were inclined to hazard a bold conjecture, we might suggest the probability that some of the defects of our neighbours originate in their admiration of RICHARDSON. The same passion for unlimited detail, and the same interminable flow of
dialogue, pervade them; yet the sensibility and enthusiasm which prevail
We are aware that many of the faults, which we have noticed, are imputed to the prevalent admiration of Shakspeare among the German dramatists. The errors of Shakspeare would be readily forgiven in any man who should approach his excellence: but we confess that he has not been frequently brought to our recollection in the present work. If, however, luxuriance of style be a promise of good-writing in the infancy of art, as Quintilian establishes it to be in that of the individual, we may still hope to see unexceptionable dramatic pieces produced by the German School. When its writers shall elevate themselves more to the majestic simplicity of the Greek Tragedians, and when they shall attend to the correct representation of human passions more than to stage-effect and the impression of vulgar pre judices, we may receive from them productions worthy of our study and our tears,
Art. 38. Adelaide of Wulfingen, a Tragedy, in Four Acts, (exemplifying the Barbarity which prevailed during the Thirteenth Century,) from the German of Augustus Von Kotzebue. By Benjamin Thompson, jun. 8vo. 2s. Vernor and Hood.
It has been frequently observed, that Professor Kotzebue's plays are distinguished by great latitude of morals. In the present instance, we conceive that his licence has been extended too far; and we cannot help thinking that he has acted very injudiciously, in combining an attack on bigotry and hypocrisy with something like a vindication of incest. We should have dismissed an inferior writer from our bar with a summary rebuke, but the popularity of this author renders his errors extremely dangerous. The intended moral of the play seems to be, that superstitious prejudices are the bane of society: but surely no wise nor good man would rank detestation of an incestuous mar riage, though contracted from the ignorance of the parties, among blameable feelings: yet the innocent and virtuous heroine of the piece is driven, by discovering that her husband is her brother, to the murder of her children. This is an unnecessary and shocking termination of the action, and it is very improperly made to pass before the eyes of the audience. We may truly say, after having gone through the play, that we have supped full with horrors;" though
we perceive no salutary effect from the agitation of the passions produced by it.
This tragedy contains more of Kotzebue's faults, and fewer of his excellencies, than any of his numerous productions that have come under our notice. To his former works, we have given our tribute of applause; it may not be useless, therefore, in the present instance, to point out some of his defects.
Probability is violated, throughout this play; the Countess of Wulfingen is introduced, in the first scene where she makes her appearance, carrying two pitchers of water from a well in the village. This proof of humility reminds us of Foote's Piety in Pattens, and is not to be excused by the barbarous manners of the age. There are customs and modes of life, which, however true and usual at certain periods, are totally unfit for dramatic representation. A tragic poet, who should produce Andromache making a mash for Hector's coursers, or feeding them, on the stage, might quote Homer's authority, without being able to save himself from ridicule. These are not the convenientia recommended by Horace.
Another obvious defect of this play is, that, however improbable the plot may appear, the author has depended so much on it, that he has not finished one character, excepting the superstitious timidity of Old Bertram. There are no phrases, no sentiments in the dialogue, which take possession of the reader's mind; we are hurried on by the rapidity of the action; and wherever that seems to pause, we are instructed in the feelings of the characters, not by their own expressions, but by the help of marginal directions to the actors. Without this new species of tuition, many pathetic pages in our author would excite neither pity nor terror. If one of his characters should merely have to say, "how do you do?" the reader's feelings would be little interested: but, should he be informed by the friendly interpreters within crotchets, that these words are to be spoken [very mournfully. or with real agitation, though under a constrained appearance of indiffer ence] he would doubtless sympathize with the afflicted orator.
This invention, it must be confessed, is much superior to Mr. Bayes's plan for " insinuating the plot into the boxes ;" for not only is the jeu du théatre thus conveyed with full effect to the reader, but the whole expence of thought and invention in the dialogue is retrenched.
In justification of these strictures, we shall cite the following passage, from that trying scene in which Sir Hugo is suddenly informed of the casual marriage contracted between his son and daughter, during his absence in Palestine. This situation would have severely tasked the invention of a tragic writer of the Old School; horror, remorse, affection, and shame, would have been displayed in bursts of impassioned eloquence. The German hero's speech consists of two words; Well! Proceed!' quiet words in themselves: but they affect the reader in a wonderful manner, by means of the marginal directions, which are very pathetic indeed.
[Starts like a man who suddenly espies a phantom, but has courage enough to run towards it, and unmask it. The muscles of his face, for
some moments, express an inward struggle, which, however, soon subsides. That serenity, which ever accompanies firmly-rooted principles, resumes its place in his countenance, and he turns to Bertram.] WELL!
This pantomime reminds us of Puff's actor in the Critic, who inculcates so many political truths by the significant manner of shaking his head. Cervantes compares authors, who have recourse to similar means of moving the passions, to those painters who are obliged to write under their figures, this is a cock, or this is a lion, for the information of the spectators: but the device was never carried to such a length in his time. Had this been the only instance of the practice, we should have overlooked it: but it occurs so frequently in Kotzebue's works, that we cannot forbear to notice it.-How dif ferently is the silent anguish of Shakspeare's Macduff impressed on our feelings! We need not apologize for quoting the passage, though it must be fresh in the memories of most of our readers: Rosse. Your castle is surprized: your wife and babes Savagely slaughter'd: to relate the manner, Were, on the quarry of these murdered deer, To add the death of you.
Malcolm. Merciful Heaven!
What, Man, ne'er pull your hat upon your brows, Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak, Whispers the o'er fraught heart, and bids it break. Macduff. My children too!
There need no marginal notes to inform us what have been the workings of Macduff's passions, previously to this exclamation; it is the cry of Nature, and penetrates every heart. Let us try how this pathetic scene would appear in the Teutonic style:
Malcolm. Thunder of Heaven!
Macduff. [Draws forwards his bonnet, so as to conceal his eyes; Crosses his arms on his breast; stamps; gnaws his under-lip; the whole muscles of the body expressing violence of resentment, grief, and desire of revenge; he then looks up to heaven, afterward turns to Rosse, and says, in a broken voice] Go on!
After the copious remarks which we have made on the preceding play, we have little to add on the subject of this. We meet here with fresh proofs of the author's capacity for better things; more extravagance of plot, more attacks on superstition, and more marginal directions. We acknowlege, however, amid all the writer's errors, that this piece excites considerable interest; and that it may be read, once, with satisfaction:-but he is evidently deficient in judgment and labour; without which no powers of invention can deliver to mankind a production, in which there will not be something that they would willingly resign.