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And to make his wickedness more complicated, he pleads an oath, by which he had sworn to have the pound of flesh, as one of his reasons for excluding all remorse:
And by our holy sabbath have I sworn
An oath, an oath, I have an oath in heav'n;
This kind of sophistry, or as the sagacious author of Hudibras shrewdly remarks, to
Compound for sins they are inclin’d to,
is an expedient to which, we fear, bad people too often have recourse. To make an overscrupulous adherence to the letter of re. ligion a pretext for violating its ordinances in more important things, is adding profaneness to crime. Even this, Shakspeare has added to the amount of Shylock's guilt, with excellent moral effect, too. For who but must forever renounce the sin of sanctioning vice with the pretence of piety, that hears Shylock justify the perpetration of murder, by his fear of committing perjury?
To particularize every beauty struck out by Cooke in this scene would require us to be much more minute than we can be. Every line he uttered would be intitled to its particular eulogium. We must therefore confine ourselves to our prescribed limits; and indeed we yield to the necessity with great reluctance and painful self-denial. A few of those passages, however, whose novelty, as well as singular perfection, most forcibly struck us, we will not deny ourselves the pleasure of enumerating.
In every part Mr. Cooke performs, his by-play, as it is called, would give him a decided preference over all other actors; not only because it is always just, significant, exact, and illustrative of the poet, but because it never suffers the audience to be, for one moment, inattentive to the actor, or forgetful of the character: besides which, it often relieves us from the tedium of bad passages and bad performers. In the trial scene, his by-play is extremely beautiful and characteristic;—the studious and apparently reverential attention with which he listened to Portia's nervous exhortation
to mercy, and his admirable dumb show comments upon it, were correct and sterling. In these we cannot say that Macklin was inferior to him, only because Macklin never attempted them. On the contrary, many years after the veteran had made the part as well and as universally understood as it was on the day he left the stage, a point of cavil with the critics continued to be this: that the words
We do pray for mercy,
having an evident reference to the Lord's prayer, ought not to be urged by way of persuasive to a Jew, as they would rather have a tendency to exasperate than mollify him: but the genius of Cooke not only has superseded that objection, but converted it to a most interesting and impressive beauty. When Portia uttered the lines,
It is an attribute to GOD himself,
At the name of God, Cooke bowed with pious reverence, while awe was visibly depicted in his face. The effect upon the audience of this solemn humiliation at the name of JEHOVAH was astonishing-electrical and so general, that one would be led to imagine there was not a being in the house who escaped it,--and it would seem as if every heart was prostrate and every body involuntarily bent in unison. But when Portia conjured him to mercy in the sacred terms of " The Lord's Prayer,” he shook his head, and waved his hand, intimating in the most significant and forcible manner imaginable, his rejection of the authority by which she invoked him.
In his servile praise, and affected rapturous admiration of the decision of the “ wise and upright judge,” Portia, he was inimitably fine. So too in the eager, abrupt, and decisive manner in which when Portia desires him to let her tear the bond, he, as if apprehensive that she will tear it, says, " When it is paid according to the tenor.”
Another beauty arose upon Portia’s proposing that he should have a surgeon by, to stop the wounds, lest Antonio should bleed to death. Neither directly assenting to nor refusing this, Shylock refers to the bond: “Is it so nominated in the bond?"-But instead of putting the interrogation, as if it were a thing of which he was
ignorant, Cooke's doubt about the matter, his question, and his scrutinizing examination of the writing as if to see whether it contained any such provision, were palpably affected, and done as an evasion; and the decisive, sneering, triumphant enjoyment he expressed in his look, and still more in his chuckle, when, returning the paper to Portia, he said, “ I cannot find it; it is not in the bond,” were intitled to the warmest approbation that it is possible for criticism to bestow.
As to the whetting of the knife, it is a mark so very broad, that a great player like Cooke can derive no great credit from hitting it: every tolerable Shylock can do that. Two points, therefore, and only two, remain to be mentioned. The first in order is his manner of saying the words
I take this offer then-pay the bond-thrice,
And let the christian go. Instead of saying it tamely, as all other Shylocks have done, "pay the bond thrice,” he divided the word “thrice” from the preceding words “pay the bond," and uttered it with a marked emphasis, as if pinning them down to that sum, and providing against their forgetting or excluding him from the offer they had made.-The second was the melancholy groan he uttered, and the horrible expression, compounded of mortification, malice and despair, which marked his face when he left the court. Of these beauties we would fain speak as they deserve, and as we think of them, but wanting adequate words, we choose to sum up our opinion in one short sentence, THEY WERE COOKE ALL OVER.
PORTRAIT OF COOKE IN SIR PERTINAX. WITH the pleasure it must naturally give us to gratify our friends, and the pride we ought to feel in being at all instrumental in bringing extraordinary genius under the public eye, we accompany this month's number of the Mirror with a full length portrait of Mr. Cooke in Sir Pertinax, done by Master LESLIE. It is a fact we ought to mention, because it is highly creditable to the talents of this extraordinary youth, that when his former drawing (that of Richard, which appeared in last month's number) was first handed about, the leading artists of the city, one and all, pronounced it to be impossible that a boy so young, and uninstructed in the art, should make a drawing so very perfect. One of them, a gentleman of known candour and libe rality, declared to this Editor that it was incredible,-that the boy, must have copied it from some British print,--and that if he had really, as was supposed, drawn it from recollection of the original, without the benefit of a sitting, he had done what no other artist in this country, and but one, that he knew of in England, could do;- in a word, that it would be, literally, a miracle. Another declared that, taking it as a copy merely, it was an extraordinary production for a youth so young and so circumstanced. When the various specimens, which the public have now before them in the Academy, were produced in proof and incredulity was vanquished, those very gentlemen were no less liberal in their applause; and gave it as their opinion that such a genius, if properly and in time cultivated, could not fail to be an ornament to the country that gave it birth. To Master Leslie it is but justice to commemorate these particulars; and it is no less due to justice to mention that America is likely to be indebted to the liberality of Messrs. Bradford and Inskeep for this native jewel's being polished to the highest perfection, and set a brilliant ornament in her annals.
THE FRENCH STAGE.
[Continued from page 274.] EVERY attempt to injure the reputation of the Cid served to increase its attractions and extend its fame; and Corneille had the triumphant satisfaction to see the cardinal derided and his creatures despised for their injurious attacks upon his work. An objection to a certain passage in the Cid occasioned as much critical controversy as the “ Put out the light” and “ Then, put out the light" of our Shakspeare. The passage is “ A tu du cæur?” The objection to which was, that as it was simply “ Have you courage?” it was an unfit question to be put to a valiant champion such as Rodrigue, and indeed, were that the meaning of the sentence, would be inapplicable to the circumstance on which it is introduced. On the other hand, it was alleged, that the academy purposely altered the passage from “a tu un cæur?” which was written by Corneille, and which meant “ Have you a heart-have you nature-have you filial affections have you laudable family pride, and courage to revenge your father's wrongs by destroying the father of her you love?” VOL. III.
In a word, there was no mode of attack which malice could wish, or cunning could devise, that was not put in practice. Sbakspeare himself never was more venomously and wantonly assailed than was the Cid, by the enemies of Corneille. It was represented as in some parts inflated, in some immoral, and in most jejune, dull, puerile and uninteresting. The great Racine himself, in this one case at least, descending from the lofty preeminence of his talents, did not disdain to share in this little dirty work of detraction; having in a play of his, called “Les Plaideurs,” travestied, even to caricature, some beautiful passages of the Cid. This, being done by a young man of real genius, seems more than any other to have been resented by Corneille, who, on reading it, exclaimed “What! shall a youngster be allowed thus to ridicule one's best poetry?"
But all was ineffectual. The sarcasms, the criticisms, the ridicule and the invenomed satire of all the praters and writers, “ fell to cureless ruin;" and his enemies had the mortification to find, that nothing could injure Corneille's fame, so strongly was it built, and so deeply was it founded in public opinion. The triumph of the Cid over the cardinal and the academy was decisive; and in the plaudits of the public voice, the feeble snarling of the curs of envy, was most completely and for ever buried. Despreaux has recorded this in the following lines:
En vain contre le Cid un ministre se ligue,
Le public revolte s'obstine a l'admirer. Though thus repulsed and defeated, the cardinal felt neither shame nor remorse; but lending the ear rather to the suggestions of his heart than to the dictates of plain sense, he still hugged the hope that Corneille would bring forth some other work which woul enable the academy to crush him, or at least to lower his fame and his pride. In this, however, his eminence, and all who wisher as he did, were completely disappointed: for ere yet the growl o discontent had died away, and while yet the haunts of literature reechoed with the praises of the Cid, Corneille brought out his Horace [Horatius]. Immediately the academy were put in motior by the cardinal, and sat in judgment on the play with no less appetite than before to indulge their patron, and injure Corneille: but they could make nothing of it: the world saw into their base. ness, despised their motives, and derided their puny attempts. The