« PreviousContinue »
The honey-bags steal from the humble-bees,
The sounds of the lute and of the trumpe are not more disa tinct than the poetry of the foregoing passage, and of the con. versation between Theseus and Hippolita.
* THESEUS. Go, one of you, find out the forester,
Hippouta. I was with Her ules and Calmus once,
There, My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind,
Even Titian never made a hunting piece of a gusto s fresh and lusty, and so hear the first ages of the world as this.
It had been suggested to us that the MIDSUMMER NIGHT's DRKAx would do adunrably to get up as a Christmas after-piece ; and our prompter pmporard that Mr. Kran should play the part of Bottom, as worthy of his great talents. He might, in the dis. of gauze
charge of his duty, offer to play the lady like any of our actresses that he pleased, the lover or the tyrant like any of our actors that he pleased, and the lion like “ the most fearful wildfowl living.” The carpenter, the tailor, and joiner, it was thought, would hit the galleries. The young ladies in love would interest the side-boxes; and Robin Goodfellow and his compa. nions excite a lively fellow-feeling in the children from school. There would be two courts, an empire within an empire, the Athenian and the Fairy King and Queen, with their attendants, and with all their finery. What an opportunity for processions, for the sound of trumpets and glittering of spears! What a fluttering of urchins' painted wings; what a delightful profusion
clouds and airy spirits floating on them! Alas, the experiment has been tried, and has failed; not through the fault of Mr. Kean, who did not play the part of Bottom, nor of Mr. Liston, who did, and who played it well, but from the nature of things. The MIDSUMMER Night's Dream, when acted, is converted from a delightful fiction into a dull pantomime. All that is finest in the play is lost in the representation. The spectacle was grand; but the spirit was evaporated, the genius was fled. Poetry and the stage do not agree well together. The attempt to reconcile them in this instance fails not only of effect, but of decorum. The ideal can have no place upon the stage, which is a picture without perspective: everything there is in the fore-ground. That which was merely an airy shape, a dream, a passing thought, immediately becomes an unmanageable reality. Where all is left to the imagination (as is the case in reading) every circumstance, near or remote, has an equal chance of being kept in mind, and tells according to the mixed impression of all that has been suggested. But the imagination cannot sufficiently qualify the actual impressions of the senses. Any offence given to the eye is not to be got rid of by explanation. Thus Bottom's head in the play is a fantastic illusion, produced by magic spells: on the stage, it is an ass's head, and nothing more; certainly a very strange costume for a gentleman to appear in. Fancy cannot be embodied any more than a simile can be painted ; and it is as idle to attempt it as to personate Wall or Moonshine. Fairies are not incredible, but fairies six feet high are so. Monsters are not shocking if they are seen at a proper distance. When ghosts appear at mid-day, when apparitions stalk along Cheapside, then may the Midsummer Night's Dream be represented without injury at Covent Garden or at Drury Lane. The boards of a theatre and the regions of fancy are not the same thing.
ROMEO AND JULIET.
ROMEO AND Juliet is the only tragedy which Shakspeare has written entirely on a love-story. It is supposed to bave been his first play, and it deserves to stand in that proud rank. There is the buoyant spirit of youth in every line, in the rapturous in toxication of hope, and in the bitterness of despair. It has been said of ROMEO AND JULIET by a great critic, that “whatever is most intoxicating in the odor of a southern spring, languishing in the song of the nightingale, or voluptuous in the first opening of the rose, is to be found in this poem." The description is true ; and yet it does not come up to our idea of the play. For if it has the sweetness of the rose, it has its freshness too; if it has the languor of the nightingale's song, it has also its giddy transport; if it has the softness of a southern spring, it is as glowing and as bright. There is nothing of a sickly and senti. mental cast. Romeo and Juliet are in love, but they are not love-sick. Everything speaks the very soul of pleasure, the high and healthy pulse of the passions: the heart beats, the blood circulates and mantles throughout. Their courtship is not an insipid interchange of sentiments lip-deep, learnt at secondhand from poems and plays,—made up of beauties of the most shadowy kind, of “ fancies wan,” of evanescent smiles and sighs that breathe not, of delicacy that shrinks from the touch, and Beebleness that scarce supports itself, an elaborate vacuity of thought, and an artificial dearth of sense, spirit, truth, and nature! It is the reverse of all this. It is Shakspeare all over, and Shakspeare when he was young.
We have heard it objected to ROMEO AND JULIỆT, that it is founded on an idle passion between a boy and a girl, who have searcely seen and can have but little sympathy or rational esteem for one another, who have had no experience of the good or ills of life, and whose raptures or despair must be therefore equally groundless and fantastical. Whoever objects to the youth of the parties in this play as “ too unripe and crude” to pluck the sweets of love, and wishes to see a first-love carried on into a good old age, and the passions taken at the rebound, when their force is spent, may find all this done in the Stranger and in other German plays, where they do things by contraries, and transpose nature to inspire sentiment and create philnsophy. Shakspeare proceeded in a more straightforward, and, we thinis, more etlictual way. lle did not endeavor to extract beauty from wrinkles, or the wild throb of passion from the last expiring sigh of indifference. He did not "gather grapes of thorns nor tigs of thistles.” li was not his way. But he has given a picture of human life, such as it is in the order of nature. He has founded the passion of the two lovers not on the pleasures they had expe. rienced, but on all the pleasures they had not experienced. All that was to come of life was theirs. Ai that untried source of promised happiness they slaked their thirt, and the first cager draught made them drunk with love and joy. They were in fuil possession of their senses and their ailections. Their hopes were of as, their desires of fire. Youth is the season of love, because the beart is then first melted in underness from the touch of novelty, and kindled to rapture, for it knows no end of its enjoy. ments or its wishes. Desire has no limit but itself. Passwn, the love and expectation of pleasure, is intinite, extravagant, int. haustible, ull experience comes to check and will de Juliet exclaims on her first interview with RDCO
* My bounty is as burless as the sea,
My love as deep And why should it of? What was to hioder the thrilling ladie of pleasure, which had just gushed from bor beart, frun dowing on without stint or measure, but experience which she was yot without! What was to abate the transport of the tini sweet sense of pleasure, whu h ber bu art and her senses had just lastraha but inillorence, which she was yet a stranger to l What was there to check the ardor of hope, of faith, of constaney, just