Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

• This Malevole is one of the most prodigious affections that ever conversed with Nature; a man, or rather a monster, more discontent than Lucifer when he was thrust out of the presence. His appetite is unsatiable as the grave, as far from any content as from heaven. His highest delight is to procure others vexation, and therein he thinks he truly serves heaven; for 'tis his position, whosoever in this earth can be contentea is a slave, and damned; therefore does he afflict all, in that to which they are most affected. The elements struggle with him; his own soul is at variance with herself; his speech is halterworthy at all hours. I like him, 'faith; he gives good intelligence to my spirit, makes me understand those weaknesses which others' flattery palliates. Hark! they sing

Enter MALEVOLE, after the song.
Pietro Jacomo. See he comes ! Now shall you hear the extremity of a
Malcontent; he is as free as air; he blows over every man. And—Sir,
whence come you now?

Malevole. From the public place of much dissimulation, the church.
Pietro Jacomo. What didst there?
Malevole. Talk with a usurer; take up at interest.
Pietro Jacomo. I wonder what religion thou art of ?
Malevole. Of a soldier's religion.
Pietro Jacomo. And what dost think makes most infidels now?

Malevole. Sects, sects. I am weary; would I were one of the Duke's hounds.

Pietro Jacomo. But what's the common news abroad? Thou dogg'st rumour still.

Malevole. Common news? Why, common words are, God save ye, Fare ye well: common actions, flattery and cozenage: common things, women and cuckolds."

Act I. Scene 3.

In reading all this, one is somehow reminded perpetually of Mr. Kean's acting : in Shakspeare we do not often think of him, except in those parts which he constantly acts, and in those one cannot forget him. I might observe on the above passage, in excuse for some bluntness of style, that the ideal barrier between names and things seems to have been greater then than now. Words have become instruments of more importance than formerly. To mention certain actions, is almost to participate in them, as if consciousness were the same as guilt. The standard of delicacy varies at different periods, as it does in different countries, and is not a general test of superiority. The French, who pique themselves (and justly, in some particulars) on their quickness of tact and refinement of breeding, say and do things which we, a plainer and coarser people, could not think of without a

blush. What would seem gross allusions to us at present, were without offence to our ancestors, and many things passed for jests with them, or matters of indifference, which would not now be endured. Refinement of language, however, does not keep pace with simplicity of manners. The severity of criticism exercised in our theatres towards some unfortunate straggling phrases in the old comedies, is but an ambiguous compliment to the immacu. late purity of modern times. Marston's style was by no means more guarded than that of his contemporaries. He was also much more of a free-thinker than Marlowe, and there is a frequent and not unfavourable allusion, in his works, to later sceptical opinions. In the play of the · Malcontent we meet with an occasional mixture of comic gaiety, to relieve the more serious and painful business of the scene, as in the easy loquacious effrontery of the old intriguante Maquerella, and in the ludicrous facility with which the idle courtiers avoid or seek the notice of Malevole, as he is in or out of favour; but the general tone and import of the piece is severe and moral. The plot is somewhat too intricate and too often changed (like the shifting of a scene,) so as to break and fritter away the interest at the end ; but the part of Aurelia, the Duchess of Pietro Jacomo, a dissolute and proud-spirited woman, is the highest strain of Marston's pen. The scene in particular, in which she receives and exults in the supposed news of her husband's death, is nearly unequalled in boldness of conception and in the unrestrained force of passion, taking away not only the consciousness of guilt, but overcoming the sense of shame.*

Next to Marston, I must put Chapman, whose name is better known as the translator of Homer than as a dramatic writer. He is, like Marston, a philosophic observer, a didactic reasoner: but he has both more gravity in his tragic style, and more levity in his comic vein. His · Bussy d'Ambois,' though not without interest or some fancy, is rather a collection of apophthegms or pointed sayings in the form of a dialogue, than a poem or a tragedy. In his verses the oracles have not ceased. Every other line is an axiom in morals—a libel on mankind, if truth is

* See conclusion of Lecture IV.

á libel. He is too stately for a wit, in his serious writings—too formal for a poet. “Bussy d’Ambois' is founded on a French plot and French manners. The character, from which it derives its name, is arrogant and ostentatious to an unheard-of degree, but full of nobleness and lofty spirit. His pride and unmeasured pretensions alone take away from his real merit; and by the quarrels and intrigues in which they involve him, bring about the catastrophe, which has considerable grandeur and imposing effect, in the manner of Seneca. Our author aims at the highest things in poetry, and tries in vain, wanting imagination and pas. sion, to fill up the epic moulds of tragedy with sense and reason alone, so that he often runs into bombast and turgidity-is extravagant and pedantic at one and the same time. From the nature of the plot, which turns upon a love intrigue, much of the philosophy of this piece relates to the character of the sex. Milton says

“The way of woman's will is hard to hit." But old Chapman professes to have found the clue to it, and winds his uncouth way through all the labyrinth of love. Its deepest recesses “ hide nothing from his view.” The close intrigues of court policy, the subtle workings of the human soul, move before him like a sea, dark, deep, and glittering with wrinkles for the smile of beauty. Fulke Greville alone could go beyond him in gravity and mystery. The plays of the latter (Mustapha and Alaham) are abstruse as the mysteries of old, and his style inexplicable as the riddles of the Sphinx. As an instance of his love for the obscure, the marvellous, and impossible, he calls up “ the ghost of one of the old kings of Ormus," as a prologue to one of his tragedies; a very reverend and inscrutable personage, who, we may be sure, blabs no living secrets. Chapman, in his other pieces, where he lays aside the gravity of the philosopher and poet, discovers an unexpected comic vein, distinguished by equal truth of nature and lively good humour. I cannot say that this character pervades any one of his entire comedies; but the introductory sketch of Monsieur D’Olive is the undoubted prototype of that light, flippant, gay, and infinitely delightful class of character, of the professed men of wit and pleasure

about town, which we have in such perfection in Wycherly and Congreve, such as Sparkish, Witwoud, and Petulant, &c., both in the sentiments and in the style of writing. For example, take the last scene of the first act.

Enter D'OLIVE. Rhoderique. What, Monsieur D’Olive, the only admirer of wit and good words.

D'Olive. Morrow, wits : morrow, good wits: my little parcels of wit, I have rods in pickle for you. How dost, Jack; may I call thee, sir, Jack yet?

Mugeron. You may, sir; sir's as commendable an addition às Jack, for aught I know.

DOl. I know it, Jack, and as common too.

Rhod. Go to, you may cover; we have taken notice of your embroidered beaver.

D'Ol. Look you : by heaven thou’rt one of the maddest bitter slaves in Europe: I do but wonder how I made shift to love thee all this while

Rhod. Go to, what might such a parcel-gilt cover be worth?
Mug. Perhaps more than the whole piece beside.

DOl. Good i'faith, but bitter. Oh, you mad slaves, I think you had Satyrs to your sires, yet I must love you, I must take pleasure in you, and i'faith tell me, how is't ? live I see you do, but how? but how, wits?

Rhod. 'Faith, as you see, like poor younger brothers. D'Ol. By your wits ? Mug. Nay, not turned poets, neither. * DOl. Good in sooth! But indeed, to say truth, time was when the sons of the Muses had the privilege to live only by their wits, but times are altered ;. monopolies are now called in, and wit's become a free trade for all sorts to live by: lawyers live by wit, and they live worshipfully : soldiers live by wit, and they live honourably: panders live by wit, and they live honestly: in a word, there are but few trades but live by wit, only bawds and midwives by \/22/22/\/2\ū2Ẹ2/222222?2?Â2Ò2\\2\/?Â?Â2Ò2ÂÒtiti2/2ūtiņģ2 22–2–2–2ņģēņģētiņģē22/2ti2m by making legs, painters and players by making mouths and faces : ha, does't well, wits?

Rhod. 'Faith, thou followest a figure in thy jests, as country gentlemen follow fashions, when they be worn threadbare.

D'Ol. Well, well, let's leave these wit skirmishes, and say when shall we meet?

Mug. How think you, are we not met now?

D'Ol. Tush, man! I mean at my chamber, where we may make free use of ourselves; that is, drink sack, and talk satire, and let our wits run the wildgoose chase over court and country. I will have my chamber the rendezvous of all good wits, the shop of good words, the mint of good jests, an ordinary of fine discourse; critics, essayists, linguists, poets, and other professors of

that faculty of wit, shall at certain hours i'th' day, resort thither; it shall be a second Sorbonne, where all doubts or differences of learning, honour, duelism, criticism, and poetry, shall be disputed : and how, wits, do ye follow the court still ?

Rhod. Close at heels, sir; and I can tell you, you have much to answer to your stars, that you do not so too.

D'Ol. As why, wits? as why? Rhod. Why, sir, the court's as 'twere the stage: and they that have a good suit of parts and qualities ought to press thither to grace them, and receive their due merit.

D'Ol. Tush, let the court follow me: he that soars too near the sun, melts his wings many times; as I am, I possess myself, I enjoy my liberty, my learning, my wit: as for wealth and honour, let 'em go; I'll not lose my learning to be a lord, nor my wit to be an alderman, Mug. Admirable D’Olive !

D'ol. And what! you stand gazing at this comet here, and admire it, I dare say.

Rhod. And do not you?
D'OL. Not I, I admire nothing but wit.

Rhod. But I wonder how she entertains time in that solitary cell: does she not take tobacco, think you ?

D'Ol. She does, she does : others make it their physic, she makes it her food: her sister and she take it by turn, first one, then the other, and Vandome ministers to them both.

Mug. How sayest thou by that Helen of Greece the Countess's sister ? here were a paragon, Monsieur D’Olive, to admire and marry too.

D'ol. Not for me.
Rhod. No! what exceptions lie against the choice ?

D'0l. Tush, tell me not of choice; if I stood affected that way, I would choose my wife as men do valentines, blindfold or draw cuts for them, for so I shall be sure not to be deceived in choosing; for take this of me, there's ten times more deceit in women than in horse flesh; and I say still, that a pretty well-paced chamber-maid is the only fashion; if she grows full or fulsome, give her but sixpence to buy her a hand-basket, and send her the way of all flesh, there's no more but so. Mug. Indeed that's the savingest way.

DOl. O me! what a hell 'tis for a man to be tied to the continual charge of a coach, with the appurtenances, horses, men, and so forth : and then to have a man's house pestered with a whole country of guests, grooms, panders, waiting maids, &c. I careful to please my wife, she careless to displease me; shrewish if she be honest; intolerable if she be wise; imperious as an empress ; all she does must be law, all she says gospel : oh, what a penance 'tis to endure her! I glad to forbear still, all to keep her loyal, and yet per- . haps when all's done, my heir shall be like my horse-keeper: Fie on't! the very thought of marriage were able to cool the hottest liver in France.

Rhod. Well, I durst'venture twice the price of your gilt coney's wool, we shall have you change your copy ere a twelvemonth's day.

« НазадПродовжити »