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it is not nelays upon Jeas the reader as a loved as
of any one passion or impression as that he can be truly taken to be a permanently embodied representation of it. Such a man, so actuated, is, and is known to be, a monomaniac. We suppose it is not necessary at this time of day to show that “Othello' is not a play upon Jealousy any more than upon Slander; whereas · Romiero’ strikes the reader as something like an exer. cise upon the given theme. No man that loved as Othello loved could, without miracle, have escaped the trap laid for his soul; whilst Romiero's jealous fury is the self-emanating impotence of a mind that has no real reverence for the object of its affection, and is indeed, towards the conclusion, contemplated as a blind folly by all the other personages of the play. Another ill effect of Mrs. Joanna Baillie's plan is that her principal characters have too much the air of puppets, predestined to a certain precise path of action, and yet undignified by any such dark incumbency of Fate as seems to brood over the noble struggles of the old Greek drama. You know that nothing will be allowed to save the victim in either case; but we are often tempted, in the modern instance, to throw the blame on the sufferer's own head, and exhale our sympathy with ‘A wilful man will have his way!' It is indeed the crucial test of first-rate dramatic genius so to reciprocate the action of circumstance and mind, of force and will, as to present a conspicuous and an interesting picture of that which we every one of us exhibit day by day to our neighbours or ourselves in miniature; without which alternate, or rather co-instantaneous, interchange and counter-check, perpetually operating, man in real or scenic life loses the properties of manhood, and becomes an idiot or a maniac. We are far from meaning that Mrs. Joanna Baillie has always failed before this test; but we think she has often so failed, and that the plan upon which she wrote had a natural tendency to make her so fail.
Again, it appears to us that the exigency of her plan has in some instances induced her, for the sake of uniformity, to confound the materials and the limits of tragedy and comedy. It is not true that every passion becomes comic merely because you surround it with a comic apparatus. Farcical it may, perhaps, be—a grim grotesque of tragedy; but that is as alien from the genuine spirit of comedy as a dance of witches from the Mayday sports of rustics on a village green. There was many a blood-besprinkled farce enacted within the shadow of the Paris guillotine, but not one of all who witnessed such, grin as he might, ever thought it comic. Virtue and wickedness are, in eodem genere, unfit for comedy; the mere absence of virtue is no deficiency. Hence vices belong to comedy, crimes to tragedy. It was Congreve's great fault that he introduced directly wicked characters into his plays. No wit could make Maskwell a fit subject for comedy. And the analogy to the passions is immediate and complete.
Anger may be highly comic; Resentment, also, may be so accompanied and contrasted as to be compatible with the spirit and object of comedy: but Hatred, the settled frame of the mind properly so called, is, if dramatic at all, taken singly by itself, endurable only on the dark background of the tragic scene. You cannot bring Baltimore in any shape nearer to comedy than as a very grave parody on De Montfort. So the mere weakness of the mind or the nerves, which induces overwhelming terror in the presence of danger to life, may be arrayed in circumstances of tragic interest: but the simple imbecility of nature, unaccompanied by any spurious pretensions to courage, is no more fit subject for comedy than epilepsy or the headache. Amorous and La Fool, Parolles, Bessus, and Acres are all, in their different species, highly comic; but Valdemere's boasting is so occasional, so purely defensive, that the mere physical failing is exposed without any of that relief, wanting which such an exhibition possesses no element of comedy in it. Valdemere is simply to be pitied as a weak man, upon whom his cruel friends have, as Antonio says, 'played an abominable trick.'
But, having freely made these general remarks, let us again express our admiration of the wonderful elasticity and masculine force of mind exhibited in this vast collection of dramas. Unequal as some of them are in merit, there is not one that will not well repay perusal. The writing is sometimes plain; but then we are spared the plaster and Dutch metal of our stage-favourites. Where the line is not poetic it is at least good sense; and the spirit breathing everywhere is a spirit of manly purity and moral uprightness. Few books of entertainment can be placed in the hands of the young so safely and profitably as Mrs. Joanna Baillie's plays, taken generally; and we should have said universally, were it not for the too plain implication in one of them, the Martyr, of the opinions entertained by this excellent lady on an equally awful and fundamental article of the Christian faith, as to which we deeply lament her dissent from the Catholic Church. We have already said that mere curiosity is the craving least gratified by the Plays on the Passions: they appeal to higher aspirations; and we can truly say that, great as our youthful admiration was, a critical re-perusal in middle life has deepened the impression we had always retained of their excellence. Let us, before we pass on, be permitted to quote a part of a scene in De Montfort-familiar to most, but possibly for the first time brought before the eyes of some of our younger readers.
De Mon. No more, my sister, urge me not again;
Jane. What! must 1, like a distant humble friend,
De Mon. Ah, Jane, forbear! I cannot e'en to thee.
Jane. Then fie upon it! fie upon it, Montfort !
De Mon. So would I now, but ask of this no more.
Jane. Then secret let it be: I urge no further.
De Mon. Oh, Jane, thou dost constrain me with thy loveWould I could tell it thee!
Jane. Thou shalt not tell me. Nay, I'll stop mine ears, Nor from the yearnings of affection wring What shrinks from utterance. Let it pass, my brother. I'll stay by thee; I'll cheer thee, comfort thee; Pursue with thee the study of some art, Or nobler science, that compels the mind To steady thought progressive, driving forth All floating, wild, unhappy fantasies, Till thou, with brow unclouded, smilest again;Like one, who, from dark visions of the night, When the active soul within its liseless cell Holds its own world, with dreadful fancy press'd
Of some dire, terrible, or murderous deed,
De Mon. It will not pass away ;-'twill haunt me still.
Jane. Ah! say not so, for I will haunt thee too;
De Mon. Thou most generous woman !
Jane. What say'st thou, Montfort ? Oh! what words are these ?
Ha! wilt thou not?
De Mon. (raising her, and kneeling.)
Jane. Say not so.
De Mon. A lover's, say'st thou ?
Jane. De Montfort, this is fiend-like, terrible!
De Mon. It will not part.-I've lodged it here too long.
Whom did'st thou say?
Jane. And would thy hatred crush the very man
De Mon. Ha! thou hast heard it then! From all the world,