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heart.* This, too, is Shakspere's great excellency; and to this it is principally owing that his dramatic productions, notwithstanding their many imperfections, have been so long the favonrites of the public. He is more faithful to the true language of nature, i« the midst of passion, than any writer. He gives us this language, unadulterated by art; and more instances of it can be quoted from him than from all other tragic poets taken together. I shall refer only to that admirable scene in Macbeth, where Macduff receives the account of his wife and all his children being slaughtered in his absence. The emotions, first of grief, and then of the most fierce resentment rising against Macbeth, are painted in such a mmmer, that there is no heart but must feel them, and no fancy can conceive any thing more expressive of nature.
With regard to moral sentiments and reflections in tragedies, it is clear that they must not recur too often. They lose their effect when unseasonably crowded. They render the play pedantic and declamatory. This is remarkably the case with those Latin tragedies which go under the name of Seneca, which are little more than a collection of declamations and moral sentences, wrought up with a quaint brilliancy, which suited the prevailing taste of that age.
I am not, however, of opinion, that moral reflections ought to be altogether omitted in tragedies. When properly introduced, they give dignity to the composition, and, on many occasions, they are. extremely natural. When persons are under anv uncommon distress, when they are beholding in others, or experiencing in themselves, the vicissitudes of human fortune; indeed, when they are placed in any of the great and trying situations of life, serious and moral reflections naturally occur to them, whether they be persons of much virtue or not. Almost every human being is, on such occasions, disposed to be serious. It is then the natural tone of the mind; and therefore no tragic poet should omit such proper opportunities, when they occur, for favouring the interests of virtue.
• Nothing, for instance, can be more touching and pathetic than the address which Medea, in Euripides, makes to her children, when she had formed the resolution of putting them to death; and nothing more natural than the conflict which she u described n suffering within herself on that occasion: t t. .
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Cardinal Wolsey's soliloquy upon his fall, for instance, in Shakespeare, when he bids a long farewell to all his greatness, and the advices which he afterwards gives to Cromwell, are, in his situation, extremely natural; touch and please all readers; and are at once instructive and affecting. Much of the merit of Mr. Addison's Cato depends upon that moral turn of thought which distinguishes it. I have had occasion, both in this lecture and the preceding one, to take notice of some of its defects; and certainly neither for warmth of passion, nor proper conduct of the plot, is it at all eminent. It does not, however, follow, that it is destitute of merit. For, by the purity and beauty of the language, by the dignity of Cato's character, by that ardour of public spirit, and those virtuous sentiments of which it is full, it has always commanded high regard; and has, both in our own country and among foreigners, acquired no small reputation.
The style and versification of tragedy ought to be free, easy, and varied. Our blank verse is happily suited to this purpose. It has sufficient majesty for raising the style; it can descend to the simple and familiar; it is susceptible of great variety of cadence, and is quite free from the constraint and monotony of rhyme; for monotony is, above all things, to be avoided by a tragic poet. If he maintain every where the same stateliness of style, if he uniformly keep up the same run of measure and harmony in his verse, he cannot fail of becoming insipid. He should not, indeed, sink into flat and careless lines; his style should always have force and dignity, but not the uniform dignity of epic poetry. It should assume that briskness and ease which is suited to the freedom of dialogue, and the fluctuations of passion.
One of the greatest misfortunes of the French tragedy is, its being always written in rhyme. The nature of the French language, indeed, requires this, in order to distinguish the style from mere prose. But it fetters the freedom of the tragic dialogue, fills it with a languid monotony, and is, in a manner, fatal to the high strength and power of passion. Voltaire maintains, that the difficulty of composing in French rhyme is one great cause of the pleasure which the audience receives from the composition. Tragedy would be ruined, says he, if we were to write it in blank verse; take away the difficulty, and you take away the whole merit. A strange idea! as if the entertainment of the audience arose, not from the emotions which the poet is successful in awakening, but from a reflection on the toil which he endured in his closet, from assorting male and female rhymes. With regard to those splendid
Comparisons in rhyme, and strings of couplets, with which it wa«, some time ago, fashionable for our English poets to conclude,, Dot only every act of a tragedy, but sometimes, also, the most interests mg scenes, nothing need be said, but that they were the most perfeet barbarisms; childish ornaments, introduced to please a false taste in the audience, and now universally laid aside.
SEYMOUR'S NOTES UPON SIIAKSPERE.
"I never do him wrong
"But he does buy my injuries to be friends."
Whenever I do him wrong, instead of shewing anger, or exacting atonement, he treats we with fresh kindness; and, to win my complacency, he pays me, for injuries, what I ought to offer as the price of forgiveness.
"If she went before others I have seen, as that diamond of yours outlustres many I have beheld, I could not believe she excelled many; but I have not seen the most precious diamond that is, nor you the lady."
It appears strange to me that any reader should, for a moment, hesitate about the proper meaning of this passage; much more so, that Mr. Steevens should be so tenacious of the negative particle which stands before " believe," as to retain it, and declare it does not make nonselise. Jachimo could not be so unreasonable as to deny that the lady, whom Postlmmus extols, may exceed the ordinary rate of female beauty and accomplishment; he only contends, generally, that the ladies of Italy surpass those of Britain, and that, whatever may be the worth of Imogen, there is yet to be found another woman who outvalues her. What can be clearer than this argument:—If she went before others, whom I have seen, inasmuch as that diamond outlustres many that I have heheld, I could indeed believe she excelled many; but the most precious diamond in the world has not been seen by me, nor the most precious lady by you.
"Dost thou think in time she will not quench?"
"Quench," says Mr. Steevens, "is groze cold;" but this definition, I believe, will hardly be admitted; the sense intended seems to be—The ardour or flame of her paision will be extinguis/ted by bcr tears.
"The adornment of her bed, the arrass figures—
"Why such and such," &c. This should be the language of a person who was giving directions to another, to take notes of what he himself at present could not see. Jachimo, on the spot, and in the act of noting, would have named the express things. There is here, as in various other parts of this play, manifest corruption.
"This is her honour." Doctor Johnson says this is ironically uttered, but I rather interpret it the earnest abruption of impatience, to bring Jachimo to the point. This is a question about her honour . have done with idle circumstances, and confine yourself to that particular object.
"If you can be pale." I cannot agree in Dr. Johnson's explanation of this passage: If you can forbear to flush your cheeks with rage. I rather think Jachimo would say—then, if you are liable to conviction, and susceptible of disgrace; if your countenance can be wrought to a change by any thing,\et this evidence of your shame make you pale with despair.
MEASURE FOR MEASURE.
Take, oh take those lips away,
That so sweetly were forsworn,
Lights that do mislead the morn:
Meas.for Meat. Act IV. Sc. 1. I should be much obliged, Sir, if any of your female correspondents (for they, I suppose, are best qualified) would inform me, through the medium of your miscellany, what Mariana means by this song, and how it is possisible for Angelo to bring back kisses, if he take away his lips.
''., .Your constant Reader,
TO THE MEMORY OF A YOUNG GENTLEMAN,*
Who perished on board a Vessel which was lost in ike West Indies in the
Though, mid the wild gloom of the ruthless wave
You found, lamented youth! a watery grave,
Think not, altho* the drear and billowy roar
Those looks thatcharm'd them, and that ample store
Think not, fond Spirit! that they all are past;
Memory still breaks triumphant through the storm,
Recalls thy smiles, and paints thy noble form.
And oh! for thee, lov'd youth! altho' unknown,
A humbler Muse shall breathe a mournful tone,
But far more grateful to thy pensive shade,
He who to each fond bosom long convey'd
The humid lustre of the rising morn
Is usherM in by many a sigh for thee,
O'er all thy worth, in saddest ecstacy.
Oh! what delicious hopes inspir'd their breast,
* Mr. Thomas L*i"ii"d.