« AnteriorContinuar »
daughters is an historical fact, to which the poet has added little, having only drawn it into a series by dialogue and action. But I am not able to apologize with equal plausibility for the extrusion of Gloster's eyes, which seems an act too borrid to be endured in dramatic exhibition, and such as must always compel the mind to relieve its distress by incredulity. Yet let it be remembered that our author well knew what would please the audience for which he wrote.
The injary done by Edmund to the simplicity of the action is abundantly recompensed by the addition of variety, by the art with which he is made to co-operate with the chief design, and the opporlunity which he gives the poet of combining perfidy with perfidy, and connecting the wicked son with the wicked daughters, to impress this important moral, that villany is never at a slop, that crimes lead to crimes, and at last terminate in ruin.
But though this moral be incidentally enforced, Shakspeare has suffered the virtue of Cordelia to perish in a just cause, contrary to the natural ideas of justice, to the hope of the reader, and what is yet more strange, to the faith of cbrouicles. Yet this conduct is justified by The Spectator, who blames Tate for giving Cordelia snccess and happiness in his alteration, and declares, that in his opinion, the tragedy has lost half its beauty. Dennis has remarked, whether jastly or not, thal, lo secure the favourable reception of Cato, the town was poisoned with much false and abominable criticism, and that endeavours had been used to discredit and decry poetical justice. A play in which the wicked prosper, and the virtuous miscarry, may doubtless be good, because it is a just representation of the common events of human life; but since all reasonable beings naturally love justice, I cannot easily be persuaded, that the observation of justice makes a play worse; or that, if other excellencies are equal, the audience will not always rise better pleased from the final triumph of persecuted virtue.
In the present case the public has decided. Cordelia, from the time of Tate, has always retired with victory and felicity. And, if my sensations could add any thing to the general suffrage, I might relate, I was many years ago so shocked by Cordelia's death, that I know not whether I ever endured to read again the last scenes of the play, till I undertook to revise them as an editor.
There is another controversy among the critics concerning this play. It is disputed whether the predominant image in Lear's disordered mind be the loss of his kingdom or the cruelty of his daughters. Mr. Murphy, a very judicious critic, has evinced by induction of particular passages, that the cruelty of his daughters is the primary source of his distress, and that the loss of royalty affects him only as a secondary and subordinate evil. He observes, with great justness, that Lear would move our compassion but little, did we not rather consider the injured father than the degraded king
The story of this play, except the episode of Edmund, which is derived, I think, from Sidney, is taken originally from Geoffry of Monmouth, whom Holinshed. generally copied; but perhaps immediately from an old historical ballad. My reason for believing that the play was posterior to the ballad, rather than the ballad to the play, is, that the ballad has nothing of Shakspeare's nocturnal tempest, which is too striking to have been omitted, and that it follows the chronicle; it has the rudiments of the play, but none of its amplifications: it first hinted Lear's madness, but did not array it in circumstances. The writer of the ballad added something to the history, which is a proof that he would have added more, if more had occurred to his mind; and more must have occurred if he had seen Shakspeare.
C. Whittingham, Printer, Chiswick.
Escalus, Prince of Verona.
} Servants to Capulet.
Houses ; Maskers, Guards, Watchmen, and Attendants. SCENE, during the greater Part of the Play, in Verona: once
in the fifth Act, at Mantua.
PROLOGUE. Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new matiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life; Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows
Do, with their death, bury their parents' strife. The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
SCENE I. A public Place. Enter SAMPSON and GREGORY, armed with Swords
and Bucklers. Sam. GREGORY, o’my word, we'll not carry coals. Gre. No, for then we should be colliers. Sam. I mean, an we be in choler, we'll draw.
Gre. Ay, while you live, draw your neck out of the collar.
Sam. I strike quickly, being moved.
art not quickly moved to strike. Sam. A dog of the house of Montague moves me.
Gre. To move, is—to stir; and to be valiant, is—to stand to it: therefore if thou art mov’d, thou runn'st away.
Sam. A dog of that house shall move me lo stand : I will take the wall of any man or maid of Montague's.
Gre. That shows thee a weak slave; for the weakest goes to the wall.
Sam. True; and therefore women, being the weaker vessels, are ever thrust to the wall : therefore I will push Montague's men from the wall, and thrust his inaids to the wall.
Gre. The quarrel is between our masters, and 175 their men.