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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 tra gedy. The character of Othello is perhaps the most greatly drawn, the most heroic of any of Shakespeare'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 that dark fierce flood of boiling passion, polluting even his imagination, compose a character entirely original, most difficult to delineate, but perfectly delineated.

Hamlet might seem to be the intellectual offsp Shakespeare's love. He alone, of all his offspring, has Shakespeare's own intellect. But he has given him a moral nature, that makes his character individual. Princely, gentle, and loving, full of natural gladness, but having a depth of sensi bility which is no sooner touched by the harsh events of life than it is jarred, and the mind for ever overcome with melan choly. For intellect and sensibility blended throughout, and commensurate, and both ideally exalted and pure, are not able to pass through the calamity and trial of life; unless they are guarded by some angel from its shock, they perish in it, or undergo a worse change. The play is a singular example of a piece of great length, resting its interest upon the delineation of one character. For Hamlet, his discourses, and the changes of his mind, are all the play. The other persons

even his father's ghost, are important through him. And in himself, it is the variation of his mind, and not the varying events of his life, that affords the interest. In the representation, his celebrated soliloquy is perhaps the part of the play that is most expected, even by the common audience. His interview with his mother, of which the interest is produced entirely from his mind-for about her we care nothing-is in like manner remarkable by the sympathy it excites in those for whom the most intellectual of Shakespeare's works would scarcely seem to have been written. This play is perhaps superior to any other in existence for unity in the delineation of character.

We have yet to speak of the most pathetic of the plays of Shakespeare-Lear. A story unnatural and irrational in its foundation, but, at the same time, a natural favourite of tradition, has become in the hands of Shakespeare a tragedy of surpassing grandeur and interest. He has seized upon that germ of interest which has already made the story a favourite of popular tradition, and unfolded it into a work for the passionate sympathy of all-young, old, rich, and poor, learned and illiterate, virtuous and depraved. The majestic form of the kingly-hearted old man-the reverend head of the brokenhearted father-" a head so old and white as this "—the royalty from which he is deposed, but of which he can never be divested the father's heart which, rejected and trampled on by two children, and trampling on its one most young and duteous child, is, in the utmost degree, a father's still-the two characters, father and king, so high to our imagination and love, blended in the reverend image of Lear-both in their destitution, yet both in their height of greatness—the spirit blighted and yet undepressed-the wits gone, and yet the moral wisdom of a good heart left unstained, almost unobscured -the wild raging of the elements, joined with human outrage and violence to persecute the helpless, unresisting, almost unoffending sufferer; and he himself in the midst of all imaginable misery and desolation, descanting upon himself, on the whirlwinds that drive around him-and then turning in tenderness to some of the wild motley association of sufferers among whom he stands;-all this is not like what has been seen on any stage, perhaps in any reality, but it has made a

world to our imagination about one single imaginary individual, such as draws the reverence and sympathy which should seem to belong properly only to living men. It is like the remembrance of some wild perturbed scene of real life. Everything is perfectly woeful in this world of woe. The very assumed madness of Edgar, which, if the story of Edgar stood alone, would be insufferable, and would utterly degrade him to us, seems, associated as he is with Lear, to come within the consecration of Lear's madness. It agrees with all that is brought together; the night-the storms-the houselessness-Glo'ster with his eyes put out-the fool-the semblance of a madman, and Lear in his madness, are all bound together by a strange kind of sympathy, confusion in the elements of nature, of human society and the human soul. Throughout all the play, is there not sublimity felt amidst the continual presence of all kinds of disorder and confusion in the natural and moral world; a continual consciousness of eternal order, law, and good? This it is that so exalts it in our eyes. There is more justness of intellect in Lear's madness than in his right sensesas if the indestructible divinity of the spirit gleamed at times more brightly through the ruins of its earthly tabernacle. The death of Cordelia and the death of Lear1 leave on our minds, at least, neither pain nor disappointment, like a common play ending ill-but, like all the rest, they show us human life involved in darkness and conflicting with wild powers let loose to rage in the world; a life which continually seeks peace, and which can only find its good in peace-tending ever to the depth of peace, but of which the peace is not here. The feeling of the play, to those who rightly consider it, is high and calm,-because we are made to know, from and through those very passions which seem there convulsed, and that very structure of life and happiness that seems there crushed, even in the law of those passions and that life, this eternal Truth, that evil must not be, and that good must be. The only thing intolerable was, that Lear should, by the very truth of his daughter's love, be separated from her love and his restoration to her love, and therewith to his own perfect

1 For some admirable observations on this subject, see the Essays of Charles Lamb-a writer to whose generous and benign philosophy, English dramatic literature is greatly indebted.

mind, consummates all that was essentially to be desired-a consummation, after which the rage and horror of mere matterdisturbing death, seems vain and idle. In fact, Lear's killing the slave who was hanging Cordelia-bearing her in dead in his arms—and his heart bursting over her-are no more than the full consummation of their reunited love-and there father and daughter lie in final and imperturbable peace. Cordelia, whom we at last see lying dead before us, and over whom we shed such floods of loving and approving tears, scarcely speaks or acts in the play at all—she appears but at the beginning and the end—is absent from all the impressive and memorable scenes; and to what she does say, there is not much effect given;-yet, by some divine power of conception in Shakespeare's soul, she always seems to our memory one of the principal characters—and while we read the play, she is continually present to our imagination. In her sister's ingratitude, her filial love is felt-in the hopelessness of the broken-hearted king, we are turned to that perfect hope that is reserved for him in her loving bosom—in the midst of darkness, confusion, and misery, her form is like a hovering angel, seen casting its radiance on the storm.

Turning from such noble creations as these, it is natural to ask ourselves, is the age of dramatic literature gone by, never to be restored? Certainly the whole history of our stage, from the extinction of that first great dynasty, down to this very day, shows rather a strong dramatic disposition, than a strong dramatic power; and the names of Rowe, Otway, Lee, and Lillo, are perhaps as far above the most favoured of this age, as they are beneath all those of the age of Elizabeth. It is not to be denied that the whole mind of the country is lowered since those magnificent times; and that its intellectual character has become more external. With respect to the drama, the state of society was then more favourable to it, passing from the strong and turbulent life of early times, yet having much of their native vigour, and much of their pristine shape and growth. The reality of life is seldom shown to our eyes; and each now sees, as it were, but a small part of the whole. He sees a little of one class. The dark study of the constitution of our life is no longer to our taste, nor within the measure of our capacity; and therein lie the causes of their

hopelessness who believe that the tragic drama is no more. Some have thought that the vast number of standard plays is the cause why new plays are not produced. But genius does not work on a consideration of the supply in the market, of the stock on hand. In whatever way it has power to bring itself into sympathy with the heart of the people, so as to dwell in their love and delight, it will go to its work in obedience to such impulses; and surely there is always change enough from one generation to another to make a new field for dramatic composition, or for any kind of literature, so as to enable a mind of power to write more entirely to the passions of his contemporaries, than any one living before him has done.

It seems to us that the poetry of our days has not dealt enough with life and reality. They surely contain elements of poetry, if we had poets who were capable of bringing to use the more difficult materials of their art. Some critics have conceived that the matter of poetry might become exhausted; but the opinion is not likely to gain much credit amongst us. The bolder opinion, that all conditions of human life, for ever, will contain the inexhaustible matter of that art, seems more suitable to our genius. There has been a decided tendency in our own days to prove the capacity of some apparently unfavourable states of life. But it may be questioned whether the experiment has yet found eminent success. What is wanting to poetry in ages like ours, seems to be rather the proper composition of the minds of poets, than a sufficiency of matter in the life from which they would have to paint. The minds of civilised men are too much unpoetical, because the natural play of sensitive imagination in their minds is, in early years, suppressed. They are cultivated with poetry indeed, but that is an unproductive cultivation. Every mind has, by nature, its own springs of poetry. And it may be conceived, that if nature were suffered to have a freer development in our minds, we should grow up, looking upon our own life with that kind of deep emotion with which, in earlier ages, men look upon the face of society; with something like a continuance of those strange and strong feelings with which, as children, we gazed upon the life even of our own generation. We begin in imagination; but we outgrow it. We pass into a state which is not of wisdom, but one in which imagination and

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