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ence to our strong belief that Shakspere's earliest plays must be assigned to the commencement of his dramatic career; and that two or three even of his great works had then been given to the world in an unformed shape, subsequently worked up to completeness and perfection. But it appears to us a misapplication of the received meaning of words, to talk of "the warmth of a youthful and lively imagination" with reference to A Midsummer-Night's Dream,' and the Shakspere of thirty. We can understand these terms to apply to the unpruned luxuriance of the 'Venus and Adonis ;' but the poetry of this piece, the almost continual rhyme, and even the poverty of the fable, are to us evidences of the very highest art having obtained a perfect mastery of its materials after years of patient study. Of all the dramas of Shakspere there is none more entirely harmonious than 'A Midsummer-Night's Dream.' All the incidents, all the characters, are in perfect subordination to the will of the poet. "Throughout the whole piece," says Malone, "the more exalted characters are subservient to the interests of those beneath them." Precisely so. An unpractised author-one who had not "a youthful and lively imagination" under perfect control,-when he had got hold of the Theseus and Hippolyta of the heroic ages, would have made them ultra-heroical. They would have commanded events, instead of moving with the supernatural influence around them in harmony and proportion. "Theseus, the associate of Hercules, is not engaged in any adventure worthy of his rank or reputation, nor is he in reality an agent throughout the play." Precisely so. An immature poet, again, if the marvellous creation of Oberon and Titania and Puck could have entered into such a mind, would have laboured to make the power of the fairies produce some strange and striking events. But the exquisite beauty of Shakspere's conception is, that, under the supernatural influence, "the human mortals move precisely according to their respective natures and habits. Demetrius and Lysander are impatient and revengeful;-Helena is dignified and affectionate, with a spice of female error;-Hermia is somewhat vain and shrewish. And then Bottom! Who but the most skilful artist could have given us such a character? Of him Malone says, "Shakspeare would naturally copy those manners first with which he was first acquainted. The ambition of a theatrical candidate for applause he has happily ridiculed in Bottom the weaver." A theatrical candidate for applause! Why, Bottom the weaver is the representative of the whole human race. His confidence in his own power is equally profound, whether he exclaims, "Let me play the lion too;" or whether he sings alone, "that they shall hear I am not afraid;" or whether, conscious
that he is surrounded with spirits, he cries out, with his voice of authority, "Where's Peas-blossom?" In every situation Bottom is the same,―the same personification of that self-love which the simple cannot conceal, and the wise can with difficulty suppress. Malone thus concludes his analysis of the internal evidence of the chronology of 'A Midsummer-Night's Dream:-"That a drama, of which the principal personages are thus insignificant, and the fable thus meagre and uninteresting, was one of our author's earliest compositions, does not, therefore, seem a very improbable conjecture; nor are the beauties with which it is embellished inconsistent with this supposition." The beauties with which it is embellished include, of course, the whole rhythmical structure of the versification. The poet has here put forth all his strength. We venture to offer an opinion that, if any single composition were required to exhibit the power of the English language for purposes of poetry, that composition would be the 'Midsummer-Night's Dream.' This wonderful model, which, at the time it appeared, must have been the commencement of a great poetical revolution,—and which has never ceased to influence our higher poetry, from Fletcher to Shelley,-was, according to Malone, the work of "the genius of Shakspeare, even in its minority."
Mr. Hallam has, as might be expected, taken a much more correct view of this question than Malone. He places A MidsummerNight's Dream' among the early plays; but, having mentioned 'The Comedy of Errors,' The Two Gentlemen of Verona,' 'Love's Labour's Lost,' and 'The Taming of the Shrew,' he adds, "its superiority to those we have already mentioned affords some presumption that it was written after them."*
'A Midsummer-Night's Dream' is mentioned by Francis Meres in 1598. The date of the first publication of the play, therefore, in 1600, does not tend to fix its chronology. Nor is it very material to ascertain whether it preceded 1598 by three, or four, or five years. The state of the weather in 1593 and 1594, when England was visited with peculiarly ungenial seasons, may have suggested Titania's beautiful description in Act II., Scene 2. (See Illustrations.) The allusion of two lines in Act V. is by no means so clear :
"The thrice three muses mourning for the death
This passage was once thought to allude to the death of Spenser. But the misfortunes and the death of Spenser did not take place till 1599. Even if the allusion were inserted between the first produc
*Literature of Europe, vol. ii., p. 387.
tion of the piece and its publication in 1600, it is difficult to understand how an elegy on the great poet could have been called "Some satire keen and critical."
T. Warton suggested "that Shakspeare here, perhaps, alluded to Spenser's poem entitled 'The Tears of the Muses, on the Neglect and Contempt of Learning.' This piece first appeared in quarto, with others, 1591." We greatly doubt the propriety of this conjecture, which Malone has adopted. Spenser's poem is certainly a satire in one sense of the word; for it makes the Muses lament that all the glorious productions of men that proceeded from their influence had vanished from the earth. All that
"was wont to work delight
And all that els seemd fair and fresh in sight,
Was turned now to dismall heavinesse,
Clio complains that mighty peers "only boast of arms and ancestry;" Melpomene that "all man's life meseems a tragedy;" Thalia is "made the servant of the many;" Euterpe weeps that 66 now no pastoral is to be heard ;" and so on. These laments do not seem to be identical with the
These expressions are too precise and limited to refer to the tears of the Muses for the decay of knowledge and art. We cannot divest ourselves of the belief that some real person, and some real death, was alluded to. May we hazard a conjecture?-Greene, a man of learning, and one whom Shakspere in the generosity of his nature might wish to point at kindly, died in 1592, in a condition that might truly be called beggary. But how was his death, any more than that of Spenser, to be the occasion of " some satire keen and critical ?" Every student of our literary history will remember the famous controversy of Nash and Gabriel Harvey, which was begun by Harvey's publication, in 1592, of 'Four Letters, and certain Sonnets, especially touching Robert Greene, and other parties by him abused.' Robert Greene was dead; but Harvey came forward, in revenge of an incautious attack of the unhappy poet, to satirize him in his grave to hold up his vices and his misfortunes to the public scorn to be "keen and critical" upon "learning, late deceas'd in beggary." The conjecture which we offer may have little weight, and the point is certainly of very small consequence.
For the costume of the Greeks in the heroical ages we must look to the frieze of the Parthenon. It has been justly remarked (Elgin Marbles,' p. 165) that we are not to consider the figures of the Parthenon frieze as affording us "a close representation of the national costume," harmony of composition having been the principal object of the sculptors. But, nevertheless, although not one figure in all the groups may be represented as fully attired according to the custom of the country, nearly all the component parts of the ancient Greek dress are to be found in the frieze. Horsemen are certainly represented with no garment but the chlamys, according to the practice of the sculptors of that age; but the tunic which was worn beneath it is seen upon others, as well as the cothurnus, or buskin, and the petasus, or Thessalian hat, which all together completed the male attire of that period. On other figures may be observed the Greek crested helmet and cuirass; the closer skull-cap, made of leather, and the large circular shield, &c. The Greeks of the heroic ages wore the sword under the left arm-pit, so that the pommel touched the nipple of the breast. It hung almost horizontally in a belt which passed over the right shoulder. It was straight, intended for cutting and thrusting, with a leaf-shaped blade, and not above twenty inches long. It had no guard, but a cross bar, which, with the scabbard, was beautifully ornamented. The hilts of the Greek swords were sometimes of ivory and gold. The Greek bow was made of two long goat's horns fastened into a handle. The original bow-strings were thongs of leather, but afterwards horse-hair was substituted. The knocks were generally of gold, whilst metal and silver also ornamented the bows on other parts. The arrow-heads were sometimes pyramidal, and the shafts were furnished with feathers. They were carried in quivers, which, with the bow, was slung behind the shoulders. Some of these were square, others round, with covers to protect the arrows from dust and rain. Several which appear on fictile vases seem to have been lined with skins. The spear was generally of ash, with a leafshaped head of metal, and furnished with a pointed ferule at the butt, with which it was stuck in the ground-a method used, according to Homer, when the troops rested on their arms, or slept upon their shields. The hunting-spear (in Xenophon and Pollux) had two salient parts, sometimes three crescents, to prevent the advance of the wounded animal. On the coins of Ætolia is an undoubted huntingspear.
The female dress consisted of the long sleeveless tunic (stola or
calasiris), or a tunic with shoulder-flaps almost to the elbow, and fastened by one or more buttons down the arm (axillaris). Both descriptions hung in folds to the feet, which were protected by a very simple sandal (solea or crepida). Over the tunic was worn the peplum, a square cloth or veil fastened to the shoulders and hanging over the bosom as low as the zone (tænia or strophium), which confined the tunic just beneath the bust. Athenian women of high rank wore hair-pins (one ornamented with a cicada, or grasshopper, is engraved in Hope's 'Costume of the Ancients,' plate 138), ribands or fillets, wreaths of flowers, &c. The hair of both sexes was worn in long, formal ringlets, either of a flat and zigzagged or of a round and corkscrew shape.
The lower orders of Greeks were clad in a short tunic of coarse materials, over which slaves wore a sort of leathern jacket, called diphthera: slaves were also distinguished from freemen by their hair being closely shorn.
The Amazons are generally represented on the Etruscan vases in short embroidered tunics with sleeves to the wrist (the peculiar distinction of Asiatic or barbaric nations), pantaloons, ornamented with stars and flowers to correspond with the tunic, the chlamys, or short military cloak, and the Phrygian cap or bonnet. Hippolyta is seen so attired on horseback contending with Theseus. (Vide Hope's 'Costumes.')