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Othello's mind in his colour; whether he did not find something extremely revolting in the courtship and wedded caresses of Othello and Desdemona ; and whether the actual sight of the thing did not overweigh all that beautiful compromise which we make in reading; and the reason it should do so is obvious, because there is just so much reality presented to our senses as to give a perception of disagreement, with not enough of belief in the internal motives—all that which is unseen--to overpower and reconcile the first and obvious prejudices.*

What we see upon a stage is body and bodily action ; what we are conscious of in reading is almost exclusively the mind, and its movements : and this I think may sufficiently account for the very different sort of delight with which the same play so often affects us in the reading and the seeing

It requires little reflection to perceive, that if those characters in Shakspeare which are within the precincts of nature, have yet something in them which appeals too exclusively to the imagination to admit of their being made objects to the senses without suffering a change and a diminution—that still stronger the objection must lie against representing another line of characters, which Shakspeare has introduced to give a wildness and a supernatural elevation to his scenes, as if to remove them still farther from that assimilation to common life in which their excellence is vulgarly supposed to consist. When we read the incantations of those terrible beings, the witches, in Macbeth, though some of the ingredients of their hellish composition savour of the grotesque, yet is the effect upon us other than the most serious and appalling that can be imagined? Do we not feel spell-bound as Macbeth was? Can any mirth accompany a sense of their presence? We might as well laugh under a consciousness of the principle of Evil himself being truly and really present with us. But attempt to bring these beings on to a stage, and you turn them instantly into so many old women, that men and children are to laugh at. Contrary to the old saying, that “ seeing is be lieving," the sight actually destroys the faith : and the mirth in which we indulge at their expense, when we sce these

* 'The error of supposing that because Othello's colour does not offend 118 in the reading, it should also not offend us in the seeing, is just sucn a fallacy as supposing that an Adam and Eve in a picture shall affect us just as they do in the poem. But in the poem we for a while have paradisaical scnses given us, wbich vanish when we see a man and his wife without clothes in a picture. The painters themselves feel this, as is apparent by the awkward shifts they bave recourse to to make them look not quite naked; by a prophetic anachronism, antedating the invention of fig-leaves. So in the reading of the play, we see with Desdemona's eyes; in the seeing of it, we are forced to look with our own

creatures upon a stage, seems to be a sort of indemnification which we make to ourselves for the terror which they put us in when reading made them an object of belief-when we surrendered up our reason to the puet, as children to their nurses and their elders ; and we laugh at our fears, as children who thought they saw something in the dark triumph when the bringing in of a candle discovers the vanity of their fears. For this exposure of supernatural agents upon a stage is truly bringing in a candle to expose their own delusiveness. It is the solitary taper and the book that generates a faith in these terrors : a ghost by chandelier light, and in good company, deceives no spectators--a ghost that can be measured by the

eye, and his human dimensions made out at leisure. The sight of a well-lighted. house and a well-dressed audience shall arm the most nervous child against any apprehensions : as Tom Brown says of the impenetrable skin of Achilles with his impenetrable armour over it, “ Bully Dawson would have fought the devil with such advantages." • Much has been said, and deservedly, in reprobation of the vile mixture which Dryden has thrown into the Tempest: doubtless without some such vicious alloy, the impure ears of that

age would never have sat out to hear so much innocence of love as is contained in the sweet courtship of Ferdinand and Miranda. But is the Tempest of Shakspeare at all a subject for stage representation ? It is one thing to read of an enchanter, and to believe the wondrous tale while we are reading it; but to have a conjurer brought before us in his conjuring-gown, with his spirits about him, which none but himself and some hundred of favoured spectators before the curtain are supposed to see, involves such a quantity of the hateful incredible, that all our reverence for the author cannot hinder us from perceiving such gross attempts upon the senses to be in the highest degree childish and inefficient. Spirits and fairies cannot be represented, they cannot even be painted --they can only be believed. But the elaborate and anxious provision of scenery which the luxury of the age demands, in these cases works a quite contrary effect to what is intended. That which, in comedy, or plays of familiar life, adds so much to the life of the imitation, in plays which appeal to the Juigher faculties positively destroys the illusion which it is introduced to aid. A parlour, or a drawing-room--a library opening into a garden-a garden with an alcove in it—a street, or the plazza of Covent Garden, does well enough in a scene; we are content to give as much credit to it as it demands; or rather, we think little about it--it is little more than reading at the top of a page, “ Scene, a Garden ;" we do not imagine ourselves there, but we readily admit the imitation of familiar objects. But to think by the help of painted trees and caverns, which we know to be painted, to transport our minds to Prospero, and his island, and his lonely cell;* or, by the aid of a fiddle, dexterously thrown in, in an interval of speaking, to make us believe that we hear those supernatural noises of which the isle was full: the Orrery lecturer at the Haymarket might as well hope, by his musical glasses cleverly stationed out of sight behind his apparatus, to make us believe that we do indeed hear the crystal spheres ring out that chime, which, if it were to inwrap our fancy long, Milton thinks,

“ Time would run back and fetch the age of gold,
And speckled Vanity
Would sicken soon and die,
And leprous Sin would melt from earthly mould;
Yea, Hell itself would pass away,

And leave its dolorous mansions to the peering day.' The Garden of Eden, with our first parents in it, is not more impossible to be shown on a stage than the enchanted isle, with its no less interesting and innocent first settlers.

The subject of scenery is closely connected with that of dresses, which are so anxiously attended to on our stage. I remember the last time I saw Macbeth played, the discrepancy I felt at the changes of garment which he varied, the shiftings and reshiftings, like a Romish priest at mass.

The luxury of stage improvements and the importunity of the public eye require this. The coronation robe of the Scottish monarch was fairly a counterpart to that which our king wears when he goes to the parliament house, just so full and cumbersome, and set out with ermine and pearls. And if things must be represented, I see not what to find fault with in this.

But in reading, what robe are we conscious of? Some dim images of royalty-a crown, a sceptre, may float before our eyes, but who shall describe the fashion of it? Do we see in our mind's eye what Webb or any other robemaker could pattern ? This is the inevitable consequence of imitating everything, to make all things natural. Whereas the reading of a tragedy is a fine abstraction. It presents to the fancy just so much of external appearances as to make us feel that we are among flesh and blood, while by far the greater and better part of our imagination is employed upon the thoughts and internal machinery of the character. But in acting, scenery, dress, the most contemptible things call upon us to judge of their naturalness.

* It will be said these things are done in pictures. But pictures and scenes are very different things. Painting is a world of itself, but in scene painting there is the attempt to deceive; and there is the discordancy, never to be got over, between painted scenes and real people.

Perhaps it would be no bad similitude to liken the pieasure which we take in seeing one of these fine plays acted, compared with that quiet delight which we find in the reading of it, to the different feelings with which a reviewer, and a man that is not a reviewer, reads a fine poem. The accursed critical habit, the being called upon to judge and pronounce, must make it quite a different thing to the former. In seeing these plays acted, we are affected just as judges. When Hamlet compares the two pictures of Gertrude's first and second husband, who wants to see the pictures ? But in the acting, a miniature must be lugged out; which we know not to be the picture, but only to show how finely a miniature may be represented. This showing of everything levels all things; it makes tricks, bows, and courtesies of importance. Mrs. S. never got more fame by anything than by the manner in which she dismisses the guests in the banquet-scene in Macbeth; it is as much remembered as any of her thrilling tones or impressive looks. But does such a trifle as this enter into the imaginations of the readers of that wild and wonderful scene? Does not the mind dismiss the seasters as rapidly as it can? Does it care about the gracefulness of the doing it ? But by acting, and judging of acting, all these nonessentials are raised into an importance injurious to the main interest of the play.

I have confined my observations to the tragic parts of Shakspeare. It would be no very difficult task to extend the inquiry to his comedies, and to show why Falstaff, Shallow, Sir Hugh Evans, and the rest, are equally incompatible with stage representation. The length to which this essay has run will make it, I am afraid, sufficiently distasteful to the amateurs of the theatre, without going any deeper into the subject at present



When I selected for publication, in 1808, Specimens of English Dramatic Poets who lived about the time of Shaks. peare, the kind of extracts which I was anxious to give were not so much passages of wit and humour, though the old plays are rich in such, as scenes of passions sometimes of the deepest quality, interesting situations, serious descriptions, that which is more nearly allied to poetry than to wit, and to tragic rather than to comic poetry. The plays which I made choice of were, with few exceptions, such as treat of human life and manners, rather than masks and Arcadian pastorals, · with their train of abstractions, unimpassioned deities, passionate mortals-Claius, and Medorus, and Amintas, and Amarillis. My leading design was to illustrate what may be called the moral sense of our ancestors. To show in what manner they felt, when they placed themselves by the power of imagination in trying circumstances, in the conflicts of duty and passion, or the strife of contending duties; what sort of loves and enmities theirs were ; how their griefs were tempered, and sheir full-swollen joys abated: how much of Shakspeare shines in the great men his contemporaries, and how far in his divine mind and manners he surpassed them and all mankind. I was also desirous to bring together some of the most admired scenes of Fletcher and Massinger, in the estimation of the world the only dramatic


entitled to be .considered after Shakspeare, and, by exhibiting them in the same volume with the more impressive scenes of old Marlowe, Heywood, Tourneur, Webster, Ford, and others, to show what we had slighted, while beyond all proportion we had been crying up one or two favourite names. From the desultory criticisms which accompanied that publication, I have selected a few which thought would best stand by themselves, as requiring least immediate reference to the play or passage by which they were suggested.

poets of that


Lust's Dominion, or the Lascivious Queen.—This tragedy is in King Cambyses' vein; rape, and murder, and superlatives,

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