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when they do “a deed without a name,” to the sylph-like expressions of Ariel, who “does his spiriting gently;" the mischievous tricks and gossiping of Robin Goodfellow, or the uncouth gabbling and emphatick gesticulations of Caliban in this play.
The TEMPEST is one of the most original and perfect of Shakspeare's productions, and he has shewn in it all the variety of his powers. It is full of grace and grandeur. The human and imaginary characters, the dramatick and the grotesque, are blended together with the greatest art, and without any appearance of it. Though he has here given " to airy nothing a local habitation and a name,” yet that part which is only the fantastick creation of bis mind, has the same palpable texture, and coheres " semblably” with the rest. As the preternatural part has the air of reality, and almost haunts the imagination with a sense of truth, the real characters and events partake of the wildness of a dream. The stately magician, Prospero, driven from his dukedom, but around whom (so potent is his art) airy spirits throng numberless to do his bidding; his daughter Miranda ( worthy of that name”) to whom all the power of his art points, and who seems the goddess of the isle; the princely Ferdi nand, cast by fate upon the haven of his happiness in this idol of his love ; the delicate Ariel; the savage Caliban, half brute, half demon; the drunken ship's crew-are all connected parts of the story, and can hardly be spared from the place they fill. Even the local scenery is of a piece and charac
ter with the subject. Prospero's enchanted island seems to have risen up out of the sea ; the airy musick, the tempesi-tost vessel, the turbulent waves, all have the effect of the landscape background of some fine picture. Shakspeare's pencil is (to use an allusion of his own) “like the dyer's hand, subdued to what it works in.” Every thing in him, though it partakes of “ the liberty of wit,” is also subjected to - the law” of the understanding. For instance, even the drunken sailors, who are made reeling-ripe, share in the disorder of their minds and bodies, in the tumult of the elements, and seem on shore to be as much at the mercy of chance as they were before at the mercy of the winds and waves. These fellows, with their sea wit, are the least to our taste of any part of the play : but they are as like drunken sailors as they can be, and are an indirect foil to Caliban, whose figure acquires a classical dignity in the comparison.
The character of Caliban is generally thought (and justly so) to be one of the author's masterpieces. It is not, indeed, pleasant to see this character on the stage, any more than it is to see the God Pan personated there. But in itself it is one of the wildest and most abstracted of all Shakspeare's characters, whose deformity, whether of body or mind, is redeemed by the power and truth of the imagination displayed in it. It is the essence of grossness, but there is not a particle of vulgarity in it. Shakspeare has described the brutal mind of Caliban in contact with the pure and original forms of nature; the character grows out of the soil where it is rooted un
controled, uncouth and wild, uncramped by any of the meannesses of custom. It is “ of the earth, earthy.” It seems almost to have been dug out of the ground, with a soul instinctively superadded to it answering to its wants and origin. Vulgarity is not natural coarseness, but conventional coarseness, learnt from others, contrary to, or without an entire conformity of natural power and disposition; as fashion is the commonplace affectation of what is elegant and refined without any feeling of the essence of it. Schlegel, the admirable German critick on Shakspeare, observes, that Caliban is a poetical character, and “always speaks in blank verse." He first comes in thus :
“ Caliban. As wicked dew as e'er my mother brush'd
Prospero. For this, be sure, to night thou shalt have cramps,
Caliban. I must eat my dinner.
For I am all the subjects that you have,
And again, he promises Trinculo his services thus, if he will free him from his drudgery.
“J'll shew thee the best springs ; I'll pluck thee berries,
In conducting Stephano and Trinculo to Prospero's cell, Caliban shews the superiority of natural capacity over greater knowledge and greater folly ; and in a former scene, when Ariel frightens them with his musick, Caliban, to encourage them, accounts for it in the eloquent poetry of the senses.
" Be not afraid, the isle is full of noises,
This is not more beautiful than it is true. The poet here shews us the savage with the simplicity of a child, and makes the strange monster amiable. Shakspeare had to paint the human animal rude and
without choice in its pleasures, but not without the sense of pleasure or some germ of the affections. Master Barnardine in Measure for Measure, the savage of civilized life, is an admirable philosophical counterpart to Caliban.
Shakspeare has, as it were by design, drawn off from Caliban the elements of whatever is ethereal and refined, to compound them in the unearthly mould of Ariel. Nothing was ever more finely conceived than this contrast between the material and the spiritual, the gross and delicate. Ariel is imaginary power, the swiftness of thought personified. When told to make good speed by Prospero, he says,
6 I drink the air before me.” This is something like Puck's boast on a similar occasion, “ I'll put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes." But Ariel differs from Puck in having a fellow feeling in the interests of those he is employed about. How exquisite is the following dialogue between him and Prospero !
" Ariel. Your charm so strongly works 'em,
Prospero. Dost thou think so, spirit !
Prospero. And mine shall.
It has been observed that there is a peculiar charm in the songs introduced in Shakspeare, which, without conveying any distinct images, seem to recall