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and tried in the next-assizes, (whether they be of gaol delivery or sessions of the peace,) if he happen to be convicted for a vagabond either by inquest of office or the testimony of two honest and credible witnesses upon their oaths, he is then immediately adjudged to begrievously whipped, and burned through the gristle of the right ear with a hot iron of the compass of an inch about, as a manifestation of his wicked life, and due punishment received for the same. And this judgment is to be executed upon him, except some honest person worth five pounds in the queen's books in goods, or twenty shillings in lands, or some rich householder to be allowed by the justices, will be bound in recog. nizance to retain him in his service for one whole year. If he be taken the second time, and proved to have forsaken his said service, he shall then be whipped again, bored likewise through the other ear, and set to service; from whence if he depart before a year be expired, and happen afterwards to be attached again, he is condemned to suffer pains of death as a felon (except before excepted), without benefit of clergy or sanctuary, as by the statute doth appear.” " SCENE IV. “The prince of darkness is a gentleman; Modo he's called, and Mahu.”
In a previous Illustration we have shown that Modo and Mahu, as the names of fiends, occur in Harsnet's ‘Declaration of Popish Impostures.’ There can be no doubt, we think, that Shakspere derived these names, as well as others which Edgar uses, from this book, which, from its nature, must have attracted considerable popular attention. But it is difficult to say where the Jesuits, whose impostures Harsnet describes, found the strange names which they bestow upon their pretended fiends. Latimer, however, mentions Flibbertigibbet in his ‘Sermons.”
12 SCENE WI. “Come o'er the bourn, Bessy, to me.”
This is the first line of a “songe betweene the Queene's Majestie and Englande,” or a dialogue in verse, consisting of twenty-two stanzas of six lines each, the interlocutors being England per
sonified, and the Queen Elizabeth. The original is part of an exceedingly rare, if not unique, collection, in black letter, in the library of the Society of Antiquaries, reprinted in the ‘Harleian Miscellany,’ vol. x., p. 260. In a volume of MS. music in the British Museum is a three-part song (a canon), supposed to have been written in the time of Henry VIII., beginning as the above, and which seems to be a version—or, possibly, the source— of it. The music is in the old notation, each part separate, and not “in score,” as erroneously stated in the index to the volume.
* Scene VII.-" Where is thy lustre now f"
Of the scene of tearing out Gloster's eyes, Coleridge thus speaks:–“I will not disguise my conviction that, in this one point, the tragic in this play has been urged beyond the outermost mark and me plus ultra of the dramatic." He subsequently says, “What can I say of this scene? There is my reluctance to think Shakspere wrong, and yet—." As the scene stands in all modern editions, it is impossible not to agree with Coleridge. The editors, by their stage directions have led us to think that this horrid act was manifested to the sight. of the audience. They say “Gloster is held down in his chair, while Cornwall plucks out one of his eyes, and sets his foot on it.” Again, “Tears out Gloster's other eye, and throws it on the ground.” Nothing of these directions occurs in the original editions, and we have therefore rejected them from the text. But if it can be shown that the act was to be imagined and not seen by the spectators, some part of the loathing | which we feel must be diminished. In an Illustration of “Othello, Act W., we have shown the uses of the “secondary stage," by which contrivance “two scenes might be played which could be wholly comprehended, although not everything in the smaller frame was expressly and evidently seen.” We have also referred, in that Illustration, to Tieck's argument, that the horrid action of tearing out Gloster's eyes did not take place on the stage proper, giving a portion of the note of that eminent Ger. man critic.
- ACT IV. * SCENE WI. “How fearful “‘But, said Garrick, all alarmed for the god of
DR. Johnson has the following criticism on this celebrated passage:—“This description has been much admired since the time of Addison, who has remarked, with a poor attempt at pleasantry, that—‘He who can read it without being giddy has a very good head, or a very bad one.' The description is certainly not mean, but I am far from thinking it wrought to the utmost excellence of poetry. He that looks from a precipice finds himself assailed by one great and dreadful image of irresistible destruction. But this overwhelming idea is dissipated and enfeebled from the instant that the mind can restore itself to the observation of particulars, and diffuse its attention to distinct objects. The enumeration of the choughs and crows, the samphire-man, and the fishers, counteracts the great effect of the prospect, as it peoples the desert of intermediate vacuity, and stops the mind in the rapidity of its descent through emptiness and horror.” In this criticism we detect much of the peculiar character of Johnson's mind, as well as of the poetical taste of the age in which he lived. Wordsworth, in his preface to the second edition of his poems, has shown clearly upon what false foundations that criticism is built which would prefer high-sounding words, conveying only indeterminate ideas, and call these the only proper language of poetry, in opposition to the simple and distinct language, “however naturally arranged, and according to the strict laws of metre,” which by such criticism is denominated prosaic. Johnson was thoroughly consistent in his dislike of the “observation of particulars,” and the “attention to distinct objects.” In Boswell's ‘Life’ we have a more detailed account of his poetical creed, with reference to this very description of Dover cliff:-"Johnson said that the description of the temple, in ‘The Mourning Bride,' was the finest poetical passage he had ever read: he recollected none in Shakspeare equal to it, (“How reverend is the face of this tall pile, Whose ancient pillars rear their marble heads, To bear aloft its arch'd and pond’rous roof; By its own weight made stedfast and unmoveable, Looking tranquillity . It strikes an awe And terror on my aching sight. The tombs
And monumental caves of death look cold, And shoot a chillness to my trembling heart! ')
his idolatry, “we know not the extent and variety of his powers. We are to suppose there are such passages in his works: Shakspeare must not suffer from the badness of our memories.' Johnson, diverted by this enthusiastic jealousy, went on with great ardour—“No, sir; Congreve has nature' (smiling on the tragic eagerness of Garrick); but, composing himself, he added, ‘Sir, this is not comparing Congreve on the whole with Shakspeare on the whole, but only maintaining that Congreve has one finer passage than any that can be found in Shakspeare. . . . . What I mean is, that you can show me no passage where there is simply a description of material objects, without any intermixture of moral notions, which produces such an effect.’ Mr. Murphy mentioned Shak. speare's description of the night before the battle of Agincourt; but it was observed it had men in it. Mr. Davies suggested the speech of Juliet, in which she figures herself awaking in the tomb of her ancestors. Some one mentioned the description of Dover cliff. Johnson—“No, sir; it should be all precipice—all vacuum. The crows impede your fall. The diminished appearance of the boats, and other circumstances, are all very good description, but do not impress the mind at once with the horrible idea of immense height. The impression is divided; you pass on, by computation, from one stage of the tremendous space to another. Had the girl in ‘The Mourning Bride' said she could not cast her shoe to the top of one of the pillars in the temple, it would not have aided the idea, but weakened it.’” Taken as pieces of pure description, there is only one way of testing the different value of the passages in Shakspere and Congreve—that is, by considering what ideas the mind receives from the different modes adopted to convey ideas. But the criticism of Johnson, even if it could have established that the passage of Congreve, taken apart, was “finer" than that of Shakspere, utterly overlooks the dramatic propriety of each passage. The “girl,” in the “Mourning Bride' is soliloquising—uttering a piece of versification, harmonious enough, indeed, but without any dramatic purpose. The mode in which Edgar describes the cliff is for the special information of the blind Gloster— one who could not look from a precipice. The
crows and choughs, the samphire-gatherer, the fisherman, the bark, the surge that is seen but not heard—each of these, incidental to the place, is selected as a standard by which Gloster can measure the altitude of the cliff. Transpose the description into the generalities of Congreve's description of the cathedral, and the dramatic propriety at least is utterly destroyed. The height of the cliff is then only presented as an image to Gloster's mind upon the vague assertion of his conductor. Let the description begin, for example, something after the fashion of Congreve,
“How fearful is the edge of this high cliff."
and continue with a proper assortment of chalky crags and gulfs below. Of what worth then would be Edgar's concluding lines— * I'll look no more; Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight Topple down headlong"? The mind of Gloster might have thus received some “idea of immense height,” but not an idea that he could appreciate “by computation.” The very defects which Johnson imputes to Shakspere's description constitute its dramatic merit. We have no hesitation in saying further, that they constitute its surpassing poetical beauty, apart from its dramatic propriety.
* SCENE WI. “Half way down Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade.”
There can be little doubt that Shakspere was locally acquainted with the neighbourhood of Dover. The cliffs in his time, as adjacent portions of the coast are now, were celebrated for the production of samphire. Drayton, in his “Poly-Olbion,' has these lines:– “Some, his ill-season'd mouth that wisely understood,
Rob Dover's neighbouring cleeves of sampyre, to excite
His dull and sickly taste, and stir up appetite.” The last line shows us the uses of samphire. It was and is prepared as a pickle; and it was in such demand that it was mentioned by Heywood, in a song enumerating the cries of London,
“A lover may bestride the gossamer,
It is needless to inquire whether Shakspere was aware that the filmy threads were the production of spiders. Spenser mentions them as “scorched dew.” Without entering into any detail of the controversy between naturalists as to the causes of the phenomenon, in connection with the spider, we may quote Gilbert White's remarks, attached to his interesting description of a shower of gossamers:–
“The remark that I shall make on these cobweb-like appearances, called gossamer, is, that, strange and superstitious as the notions about them were formerly, nobody in these days doubts but that they are the real production of small spiders, which swarm in the fields in fine weather in autumn, and have a power of shooting out webs from their tails, so as to render themselves buoyant and lighter than air. . . . . Every day in fine weather, in autumn chiefly, do I see those spiders shooting out their webs and mounting aloft: they will go off from your finger if you will take them into your hand. Last summer one alighted on my book, as I was reading in the parlour, and, running to the top of the page, and shooting out a web, took its departure from thence. But what I most wondered at was, that it went off with considerable velocity in a place where no air was stirring, and I am sure that I did not assist it with my breath. So that these little crawlers seem
THE sagacious Mrs. Lenox informs us that “Shakspere has deviated widely from History in the catastrophe of his play;” whereat she is somewhat indignant, for “had Shakspere followed the historian he would not have violated the rules of poetical justice.” The antiquarians are as sensitive as the moralists upon this point. Had Shakspere attended to the chronology of the days of king Bladud, and preserved a due regard to the manners of Britain, at the period when Romulus and Remus built Rome, “upon the eleventh of the Calends of May,” he would not have given us what Douce calls “a plentiful crop of blunders.” He would have made no allusions, according to Douce's literal view of the matter, to Turks, or Bedlam beggars, or Childe Roland, or the theatrical moralities, or to Nero. We confess, however, that this inexactitude of the poet does not shock us quite so much as it does the professional detectors of anachronisms, those who look upon such allusions as “blunders” that may disturb the empire of accuracy and dulness, and consider poetry as properly a sort of ornamented Ap
to have, while mounting, some locomotive power, without the use of wings, and to move in the air faster than the air itself”—History of Selborne.
pendix to a Cyclopaedia. We have no desire to regard the symbols by which ideas may be most readily communicated, as the exponents of the things themselves to which they refer. We are willing that a poet, describing events of a
purely fabulous character, represented by the
narrators of them as belonging to an age to which we cannot attach one precise notion of
costume (we use the word in its large sense), should employ images that belong to a more recent period—and even to his own time. It is for the same reason that we do not object to see Lear painted with a diadem on his head, and his knights in armour. We should not much quarrel with any theatrical costume of the tragedy, excepting, perhaps, Garriek's laced coat, and Quin's powdered periwig. We would leave these things to the imaginations of our readers (whatever stage-managers may do with their audiences), lest we should fall into some such mistake as that celebrated in the “Art of Sinking in Poetry;'— “A painted vest Prince Vortigern had on, Which from a naked Pict his grandsire won."