« PreviousContinue »
alarmed at the appearance of a Spectre. In these Ana, not quite equal to the Addisoniana, Johnsoniana. &c. Mr. Kemble is invested with all the soleinnities supposed to attach to the character of a Ghost.. What claims he may have to this distinction, we know not; of the more substantial honours, however, which he has derived from his professional exertions, “there needs no Ghost to tell” either us or the public.
One of the Jeux d'Esprit we shall extract. It is subscribed RAZOR; and, if that be as keen as the author's wit, he will have no occasion to go to Mr. Packwood for one of his strops. There is some whim also, and some wickedness in the SCENE SHIFTER'S Dream; but its length will not permit us to transcribe it. ,
6 TO MR. KEMBLE,
Lectur'd Hal, he spoke feebly no doubt ;
He meant that the king should speak out.
His precepts so wise, and his maxims so clear,"
All that passes 'twixt you and your brother ?
We know that you stick very close to COSTUME,
But here close to character too,
You put on the face of a Jewe.
At your mantle so fine, and your chin so besmeard,
We laugh, when we ought to look grave;
* The Royal Penitent, a Sacred Drama. By John Bentley. 12mo.'
- 1s. 6d. Button. 1809. King David and Queen Bathsheba, is one of those scarce (and valuable, because scarce) dramatic pieces, well known to our black letter friends, and dramatic collectors. Mr. Bentley hath conducted the plan of his drama, and the language too, with more delicacy but less nature than the original.
THE BRITISH STAGE.
The Imitation of Life..-The Mirror of Manners---The Representation of Truth.
On the reintroduction, clamorously demanded by some, of
The Ghost of BANQUO as an actual visibility*.
Sir, I did think that a practice which I believe has uniformly prevaild ever since the first opening of the New Drury Lane THEATRE, now I believe nearly ten years, would have continued to be at least quietly allow'd; if not thankfully acknowledg’d as a Proof of good Sense, Taste, scenic Propriety, and Justice done to SHAKESPERE.
Is it not very nearly self-evident that Banduo ought not to be actually visible to the audience as general spectators, when the Poet explicitly declares him to be invisible to the Guests at the Usurper's Feast; and present therefore only to the perturb'd imagination of MẠCBETH himself. From my Childhood I remember that iny Mother (of whose Judgement and Taste it is not filial partiality to speak most respectfully,) felt the propriety and necessity of making such - a departure from the very injudicious Stage-Direction which had too
long prevail?d. Such Directions, in our English Plays, and of that Age especially, are not imputable to the Poet: and particularly not to SHAKESPERE; who had too little care of his wonderful Productions. The return to Shakespere's manifest intention that the Ghost should not be visible was not made till long after the fitness of discontinuing its appearance had been generally acknowledg’d by those who attend to the proprieties of dramatic Representation.
But if a Ghost were to be made visible, Mr. SEYMOUR, in his very judicious Remarks upon SHAKESPERE's Plays, has given, I think, very satisfactory Reason foş believing that one would be insufficient; for that if BANQUo's Ghost ought to appear to the spectators in general, that of DUNCAN should be also seen by them; the Spectres which present themselves to the guilty Conscience of MAC,
* The remarks of such a writer as C. L. must always be acceptable to ús, and can never fail, we think, to be interesting to our readers. We have great pleasure in in. serting the present article, although the opinion we have expressed, and to which we must still adhere, is entirely on the other side of the question. (Vide Volume XVI. p. 413.
BETH being differently characteriz'd in the two different parts of the same scene, By giving actual visibility to BANQUO A LUDICROUS incongruity was substituted for the sublime Terror and moral Energy of one of the most powerfully affecting scenes in SHAKESPERE And do not let it be said that THE PUBLIC will have the Ghost. The fair and unbiasst sense of The Public is one thing; the Clamour of Individuals who would implicate Tue Public in this Outrage against Good Taste and Propriety is quite another. And for the Honor of SHAKESPERE those consult best who exclude from visibility on the State that which he has excluded by the strongest possible implication, 19th Mar, 1804.
THE MODERN DRAMA. The influence which the Stage has on the morals and manners of the people at large, is so universally admitted, that all periodiçal writers, who assume to themselves peculiarly the office of public censors and critics, have thought it right to exercise this privilege in controlling licentiousness, or applauding merit. Several of the papers in the Spectator contain much judicious remark and useful observation on the plays whịch appeared, as well as upon the several performers of the time, Prior to the time of the Spectator, the Stage was an entertainment more calculated for the dissipated and vicious part of the community, than for the improvement of the mind, or the refinement of the passions. The reproach of Johnson on the dramatic writers of the reign of Charles II. was but too well deserved.
Intrigue was plot, obscenity was wit." , . With the exception of our inimitable and immortal Shakspeare, and the excellent Ben Jonson, few, if any, of the dramatic productions of that period were such as could be represented without offending common decency. The performances on the Stage deservedly incurred the censure of some of the clergy, who very justly thought that the immorality which was permitted went very far to corrupt the morals of the people. From this censure, the Stage has not to this day recovered. The plays which succeeded did not deserve this indiscriminate censure. Though not entirely free from the looseness and obscenity which disgraced the plays of their predecessors, they abounded with much genuiue, wit and humour.The productions of Wycherly, Congreve, Farquhar, and other writers of that period, exhibit in every page proofs of the most genuine comic humour, The Old Batchelor, The Plain Dealer, and several other plays of that school, though they were received with applause at the time of their first performance, would not be tolerated by an audience of the present day. Yet all admirers of true dramatic excellence cannot but lament that so much of excellent comic genius should be entirely banished from the stage. And, in avoiding this extreme, have not our present dramatic writers fallen into an error of another sort? Have not they, by attempting to introduce sentimental comedy, lost sight of what ought to be its true and legitimate department? Our modern comedies, in their humourous scenes, degenerate into farce, and their graver ones have too much of a tragical cast. Thus a species of drama is introduced, which can lay claim to the title neither of tragedy nor comedy.Thus Pizarro is called a play, Adelmorn a romantic drama, and the Castle Spectre is simply entitled a drama. Such heterogeneous mixtures of laughable and serious events, cannot convey any permanent pleasure to the spectator. .
The drama ought to “ hold the mirror up to nature;" but, in many of our modern productions, we meet with nothing drawn from nature: all is improbable, and consequently offensive to reason.' Shew and splendour, dress and decoration, compensate very ill for the want of probability or connexion; and, though for the moment, our eyes may be dazzled, or our ears captivated, yet the illusion of shew and magnificence vanishes so quickly, that nothing can remain for reason to reflect upon with pleasure or satisfaction. In modern comedy, the characters of Ranger, Bellmour, and Roebuck are extinct. Charles Surface is the last of this race of bucks ; the modern fine gentleman is dwindled into the insipid Tom Shuffleton; and the only characters that at all excite our laughter are the Dr. Ollapods and the Timothy Tandems. The flashes of wit that used to set the audience in a roar are over; and, if we laugh at all, it must be at the repetition of a set of phrases, which, in themselves, are too absurd even to excite a smile, and entirely depend for their effect upon the ludicrous dress and physiognomy of the actor. It is much to be wished, that some of our best comedies could be so altered and curtailed, as to suit them to the taste of an audience of the present age, since every candid and judicious critic must allow them to possess more of the true spirit of comedy, than the productions of our modern authors can pretend to. Some of them have been restored to the theatre by judicious alteration; and it would be doing an essential service to the stage, to bring again into notice the names of Fletcher, Wycherly, and Farquhar. Norwich.
. E. D. SEYMOUR'S NOTES UPON SHAKESPEARE.
MEASURE FOR MEASURE.
“ Much detected for women." . I CANNOT admit, with Mr. Malone, that “ detected" stands for suspected; and the instance produced from the Old Tales will not support him—Whose daughter was detected of dishonesty, and generally so reported.
“ Detected," indeed, is used here in the same sense as that to which the Duke applies it, for he who is generally reported to be dishonest, is already more than suspected. The meaning, in both cases, I believe, is not suspected, but accused, charged, appeached.
Thus, in a translation of " The Annales of Tacitus, by Greenwey, 1682," a notable example that a freed woman should defend, in such great crueltie of fortune, strangers, and almost unknown to her, whenas* men, and free borne, and gentlemen of Rome, and senators, not touched with tortures, detected the dearest of their kindred.
“ There is scarce truth enough alive to make societies secure; but security enough to make fellowships accurs’d."
The obscurity in this passage arises from the single and double meaning of security. In the first instance, it implies safety-protection; in the second, confidence-implicit trust.
“ Yet reason dares her no." I am not satisfied with any of the attempts that have been made to explain this passage. I believe the meaning is, “ How might this injured lady reproach me, if shame and delicacy did not restrain her tongue?" Yet reason, i. e, a just reflection on the cruel wrong she has suffered, as well as on the enormous guilt of the offender, must give her boldness sufficient for the accusation; yet, no--that same reason and reflection, perceiving how I am fortified by my place and character against her charge, will teach her how ineffectual it would be. 'Our poet would not scruple to write “ dares," for makes daring.
“ Her worth worth yours.” Dr. Johnson's question upon Hanmer's reading “ her worth works yours," (which Dr, Warburton adopted) How does her worth · work Angelo's worth? need not go unanswered. Her virtues are sufficient to atone for your offences; and, for her sake, I deem you again eligible to my favour.
* This word is right, whenas, not whereas.