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I come, I come, I come, I come,
With all the speed I may,
With all the speed I may.
And Hoppo too, and Hellwain too;
(A Spirit descends in the shape of a cat.) (Above.) There's one come down to fetch his dues ;
A kiss, a coll, a sip of blood;
Since th' air's so sweet and good ?
What news, what news? Spirit. All goes still to our delight,
Either come, or else
Now I go, now I fly,
To ride in the air
Or cannon's roar our height can reach. (Above.) No ring of bells, &c.
Fire. Well, mother, I thank your kindness. You must be gamboling i the air, and leave me to walk here like a fool and a mortal. [Exit.
The incantation scene at the cauldron is also the original of that in Macbeth, and is in like manner introduced by the Duchess's visiting the Witches' habitation.
6 The Witches' Habitation.
Enter Duchess, Heccat, FirestoNE.
Hec. Then I've fitted you.
Duch. In what time, pr’ythee?
Duch. What! A month?
Hec. Then seek no farther.
Duch. This must be done with speed, dispatched this night,
Hec. I have it for you:
Duch. Can'st thou do this?
Hec. Worse and worse ; doubts and incredulities,
Cum volui, ripis ipsis mirantibus, amnes
Te quoque, Luna, traho.
Fire. I know as well as can be when my mother's mad, and our great cat angry; for the one spits French then, and the other spits Latin.
Duch. I did not doubt you, mother,
Hec. No ? what did you ?.
Dich. Forgive what's past: and now I know th' offensiveness
Hec. Leave all to me and my five sisters, daughter.
[Excit Duchess. Fire. They fare but too well when they come hither. They ate up as much t' other night as would have made me a good conscionable pudding.
Hec. Give me some lizard's brain : quickly, Firestone! Where's grannam Stadlin, and all the rest o’ th’ sisters? Fire. All at hand, forsooth.
[ The other Witches appear. Hec. Give me marmaritin; some bear-breech. When ? Fire. Here's bear-breech and lizard's brain, forsooth.
Hec. Into the vessel;
Fire. Whereabout, sweet mother?
A CHARM SONG.
Titty, Tiffin, keep it stiff in ;
Liard, Robin, you must bob in.
All ill come running in; all good keep out!
There; 't hath the true perfection. I'm so light
Fire. A tune ! 'Tis to the tune of damnation then, I warrant you, and that song hath a villanous burthen. Hec. Come, my sweet sisters; let the air strike our tune Whilst we show reverence to yon peeping moon.
[The Witches dance and then exeunl."
I will conclude this account with Mr. Lamb's observations on the distinctive characters of these extraordinary and formidable personages, as they are described by Middleton or Shakspeare :
“ Though some resemblance may be traced between the Charms in Macbeth and the Incantations in this play, which is supposed to have preceded it, this coincidence will not detract much from the originality of Shakspeare. His witches are distinguished from the witches of Middleton by essential differences. These are creatures to whom man or woman, plotting some dire mischief, might resort for occasional consultation. Those originate deeds of blood, and begin bad impulses to men. From the moment that their eyes first meet Macbeth's, he is spell-bound. That meeting sways his destiny. He can never break the fascination. These Witches can hurt the body; those have power over the soul. Hecate, in Middleton, has a son, a low buffoon : the Hags of Shakspeare have neither child of their own, nor seem to be descended from any parent. They are foul anomalies, of whom we know not whence they sprung, nor whether they have beginning or ending. As they are without human passions, so they seem to be without human relations. They come with thunder and lightning, and vanish to airy music. This is all we know of them. Except Hecate, they have no names, which heightens their mysteriousness. The names, and some of the properties which Middleton has given to his Hags, excite smiles. The Weird Sisters are serious things. Their presence cannot co-exist with mirth. But in a lesser degree, the Witches of Middleton are fine creations. Their power too is, in some measure, over the mind. They raise jars, jealousies, strifes, like a thick scurf o'er life.""*
* Lamb’s ‘Specimens of English Dramatic Poets' Vol. I. p. 187 Moxon, London.
On Marston, Chapman, Decker, and Webster.
The writers of whom I have already treated may be said to have been “no mean men;" those of whom I have yet to speak are certainly no whit inferior. Would that I could do them anything like justice! It is not difficult to give at least their seeming due to great and well-known names; for the sentiments of the reader meet the descriptions of the critic more than half way, and clothe what is perhaps vague and extravagant praise with a substantial form and distinct meaning. But in attempting to extol the merits of an obscure work of genius, our words are either lost in empty air, or are “ blown stifling back” upon the mouth that utters them. The greater those merits are, and the truer the praise, the more suspicious and disproportionate does it almost necessarily appear; for it has no relation to any image previously existing in the public mind, and therefore looks like an imposition fabricated out of nothing. In this case, the only way that I know of is, to make these old writers (as much as can be) vouchers for their own pretensions, which they are well able to make good. I shall in the present lecture give some account of Marston and Chapman, and afterwards of Decker and Webster.
Marston is a writer of great merit, who rose to tragedy from the ground of comedy, and whose forte was not sympathy, either with the stronger or softer emotions, but an impatient scorn and bitter indignation against the vices and follies of men, which vented itself either in comic irony or in lofty invective. He was properly a satirist. He was not a favourite with his contemporaries, nor they with him. He was first on terms of great intimacy, and afterwards at open war, with Ben Jonson; and he is most unfairly criticized in The Return from Parnassus, under the name of Monsieur Kinsayder, as a mere libeller and buffoon. Writers in their life-time do all they can to degrade and vilify