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Will dwell upon his object; melancholy
This is noble writing; and it is quite sufficient to enable the stage representation of the two characters to be well defined. Omit it, and omit the recollections of it in the reading, and we doubt greatly whether the characters themselves realize this description: they are not self-evolved and manifested. The third scene, also, is a dramatic addition to the tale of Chaucer. It keeps the interest concentrated upon Hippolyta, and especially Emilia ; it is not essential to the action, but it is a graceful addition to it. It has the merit, too, of developing the character of Emilia, and so to reconcile us to the apparent coldness with which she is subsequently content to receive the triumphant rival, whichever he be, as her husband. The Queen and her sister talk of the friendship of Theseus and Perithous. Emilia tells the story of her own friendship, to prove
" That the true love 'tween maid and maid may be
More than in sex dividual."
This, in some sort, modifies the subsequent position of Emilia, “ bride-habited, but maiden-hearted.” Her description of her early friendship has been compared to the celebrated passage in • A Midsummer Night's Dream :'—
“ Is all the counsel that we two have shar'd," &c.
Seward, the editor of Beaumont and Fletcher, makes this comparison, and prefers the description in • The Two Noble Kinsmen.' Weber assents to this preference. We have no hesitation in believing the passage in the play before us to be an imitation of the passage in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' and therefore inferior in quality ; we do not think that Shakspere would thus have repeated himself.
In Chaucer, Theseus makes swift work with Creon and with Thebes :
" With Creon, which that was of Thebés king,
He fought, and slew him manly as a knight
And to the ladies he restor'd again
It is in the battle-field that Palamon and Arcite are discovered wounded :
“ Not fully quick ne fully dead they were,
But by their cote-armure and by their gear
The incident is literally followed in the play, where the herald says, in answer to the question of Theseus, “ They are not dead ?”
“ Nor in a state of life: Had they been taken
When their last hurts were given, 't was possible
In Chaucer, Theseus is to the heroic friends a merciless conqueror :
“ He full soon them sent To Athenes, for to dwellen in prison Perpetual, he noldé no ranson."
But in “The Two Noble Kinsmen' he would appear to exhibit himself as a generous foe, who, having accomplished the purposes of his expedition, has no enmity with the honest defenders of their country :
“ The very lees of such, millions of rates
Exceed the wine of others; all our surgeons
The fifth scene of · The Two Noble Kinsmen' is a scenic expansion of a short passage in Chaucer :
“ But it were all too long for to devise
The greaté clamour and the waimenting,
The epigrammatic ending of the scene is perhaps familiar to many :
" This world 's a city full of straying streets ;
And death 's the market-place, where each one meets.”
Pursuing the plan with which we set out, of following the course of Chaucer's story—and our reasons for adopting this plan we shall
hereafter have to explain—we pass over all those scenes and parts of scenes which may be called the underplot. Such in the second act is the beginning of Scene I. In Chaucer we learn that
“ In a tow'r, in anguish and in woe,
there may no gold them quite.”
The old romantic poet reserves his dialogue for the real business of the story, when the two friends, each seeing Emilia from the prisonwindow, become upon the instant defying rivals for her love. This incident is not managed with more preparation by the dramatist ; but the prelude to it exhibits the two young men consoling each other under their adverse fortune, and making resolutions of eternal friendship. It is in an attentive perusal of this dialogue that we begin to discover that portions even of the great incidents of the drama have been written by different persons; or that, if written by one and the same person, they have been composed upon different principles of art. We have had occasion previously to mention a little work of great ability, printed in 1833, entitled ' A Letter on Shakspeare's Authorship of The Two Noble Kinsmen.' The writer of that letter is now commonly understood to be the accomplished professor of rhetoric in the University of Edinburgh, William Spalding, Esq.; and although we have reason to believe that his opinions on this particular question have undergone some change or modification, it would be unjust, not only to the author, but to our readers, not to notice with more than common respect the opinions of a writer who, although then a very young man, displayed a power of analysis and discrimination which marked him as belonging to a high school of criticism. Mr. Spalding assumes that a considerable portion of this drama was unquestionably the production of Shakspere; that the underplot was entirely by a different hand; but that the same hand, which was that of Fletcher, was also engaged in producing some of the higher scenes of the main action. The whole of the first act, according to the traditional opinion, he holds to have been written by Shakspere. The dialogue before us in the first scene of the second act, and the subsequent contest for the love of Emilia, he assigns to Fletcher. We quote his words with reference to the first part of this scene :-“ The dialogue is in many respects admirable. It possesses much eloquence of description, and the character of the language is smooth and flowing; the versification is good and accurate, frequent in double endings, and
usually finishing the sense with the line; and one or two allusions occur, which, being favourites of Fletcher's, may be in themselves a strong presumption of his authorship; the images too have in some instances a want of distinctness in application, or a vagueness of outline, which could be easily paralleled from Fletcher’s acknowledged writings. The style is fuller of allusions than his usually is, but the images are more correct and better kept from confusion than Shakspeare's; some of them indeed are exquisite, but rather in the romantic and exclusively poetical tone of Fletcher than in the natural and universal mode of feeling which animates Shakspeare. The dialogue too proceeds less energetically than Shakspeare's, falling occasionally into a style of long-drawn disquisition which Fletcher often substitutes for the quick and dramatic conversations of the great poet. On the whole, however, this scene, if it be Fletcher's (of which I have no doubt), is among
very finest he ever wrote; and there are many passages in which, while he preserves his own distinctive marks, he has gathered no small portion of the flame and inspiration of his immortal friend and assistant.” He adds" In this scene there is one train of metaphors which is perhaps as characteristic of Fletcher as anything that could be produced. It is marked by a slowness of association which he often shows. Several allusions are successively introduced ; but by each, as it appears, we are prepared for, and can anticipate, the next: we see the connection of ideas in the poet's mind through which the one has sprung out of the other, and that all are but branches, of which one original thought is the root. All this is the work of a less fertile fancy and a more tardy understanding than Shakspeare's: he would have leaped over many of the intervening steps, and, reaching at once the most remote particular of the series, would have immediately turned away to weave some new chain of thought.” We shall presently advert to the differences of style thus clearly pointed out.
We are now arrived at a part of the tale where the poetry of Chaucer assumes the dramatic form. The description of Emilia walking in the garden, the first sight of her by Palamon, and his imaginative love, the subsequent prostration of his heart before the same vision by Arcite,—are all told with wonderful spirit by the old poet. The entire passage is too long for extract, but we give some lines which will show that the energy of Chaucer imposed no common task of rivalry upon him who undertook to dramatize this scene of passion :
“ This Palamon 'gan knit his browés tway.
“ « Now certés, false Arcite, thou shalt not so:
“Thou shalt,' quod he,“ be rather false than I,
For par amour I lov'd her first ere thou.'' It is a remarkable circumstance that one of the conditions of the friendship of the young men—the chivalric bond,
“ Neither of us in love to hinder other,"— so capable of dramatic expansion, has been passed over by the writer of this scene in “ The Two Noble Kinsmen.' The story is followed in Arcite being freed; but in Chaucer he returns to Thebes, and after a long absence comes to the court of Theseus in disguise. The unity of time is preserved in the drama, by making him a victor in athletic sports, and thus introduced to the favour of Theseus and the service of Emilia. In Chaucer, Palamon, after seven years' durance,
“ By helping of a friend brake his prison." The gaoler's daughter is a parasitical growth around the old vigorous tree.
Palamon is fled to the woods. Arcite has ridden to the fields to make his May-garland; and his unhappy friend, fearful of pursuit, hears him, unknown, sing