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cumstances and events would be very fit for expanding and lengthening a novel; but here they injure exceedingly the unity of the piece, — particularly as the hero had no plan, — and are
consequence entirely out of place."
“Do not interrupt me," answered Wilhelm ; “perhaps you will not always think me right. These errors are like temporary props of an edifice; they must not be removed till we have built a firm wall in their stead. My project therefore is, not at all to change those first-mentioned grand situations, or at least as much as possible to spare them, both collectively and individually; but with respect to these external, single, dissipated, and dissipating motives, to cast them all at once away, and substitute a solitary one instead of them.”
“And this ?” inquired Serlo, springing up from his recumbent posture.
“It lies in the piece itself,” answered Wilhelm, “only I employ it rightly. There are disturbances in Norway. You shall hear my plan and try it.
“ After the death of Hamlet the father, the Norwegians, lately conquered, grow unruly. The viceroy of that country sends his son Horatio, an old school friend of Hamlet's, and distinguished above every other for his bravery and prudence, to Denmark, to press forward the equipment of the fleet, which under the new luxurious King proceeds but slowly. Horatio has known the former King, having fought in his battles, having even stood in favor with him; a circumstance by which the first ghost scene will be nothing injured. The new sovereign gives Horatio audience, and sends Laertes into Norway with intelligence that the fleet will soon arrive, whilst Horatio is commissioned to accelerate the preparation of it; and the Queen, on the other hand, will not consent that Hamlet, as he wishes, should go to sea along with him.”
"Heaven be praised l” cried Serlo; “ we shall now get rid of Wittenberg and the university, which was always a sorry piece of business. I think your idea extremely good : for except these two distinct objects, Norway and the fleet, the spectator will not be required to fancy anything: the rest he will see; the rest takes place before him; whereas his imagination, on the other plan, was hunted over all the world.”
“ You easily perceive,” said Wilhelm,“ how I shall contrive to keep the other parts together. When Hamlet tells Horatio of his uncle's crime, Horatio counsels him to go to Norway in his company, to secure the affections of the army, and return in warlike force. Hamlet also is becoming dangerous to the King and Queen; they find no readier method of deliverance than to send him in the fleet, with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to be spies upon him: and as Laertes in the mean time comes from France, they determine that this youth, exasperated even to murder, shall go after him. Unfavorable winds detain the fleet; Hamlet returns : for his wandering through the church-yard perhaps some lucky motive may be thought of; his meeting with Laertes in Ophelia's grave is a grand moment, which we must not part with. After this, the King resolves that it is better to get quit of Hamlet on the spot: the festival of his departure, the pretended reconcilement with Laertes, are now solemnized; on which occasion knightly sports are held, and Laertes fights with Hamlet. Without the four corpses I cannot end the piece; not one of them can possibly be left. The right of popular election now again comes in force, and Hamlet gives his dying voice for Horatio."
“Quick! quick !” said Serlo; “sit down and work the piece; your plan has my entire approbation; only do not let your zeal for it evaporate.”.
Wilhelm had already been for some time busied with translating Hamlet; making use, as he labored, of Wieland's spirited performance, by means of which he had first become acquainted with Shakspeare. What in Wieland's work had been omitted he replaced; and he had at length procured himself a complete version, at the very time when Serlo and he finally agreed about the way of treating it. He now began, according to his plan, to cut out and insert, to separate and unite, to alter and often to restore ; for satisfied as he was with his own conception, it still appeared to him as if in executing it he were but spoiling the original.
So soon as all was finished, he read his work to Serlo and the rest. They declared themselves exceedingly contented with it; Serlo in particular made many flattering observations.
“You have felt very justly,” said he, among other things, “ that some external circumstances must accompany this piece; but that they must be simpler than those which the great poet has employed. What takes place without the theater — what the spectator does not see, but must imagine for himself — is like a background, in front of which the acting figures move. Your large and simple prospect of the feet and Norway will very much improve the piece; if this were altogether taken from it, we should have but a family scene remaining; and the great idea, that here a kingly house by internal crimes and incongruities goes down to ruin, would not be presented with its proper dignity. But if the former background were left standing, so manifold, so fluctuating and confused, it would hurt the impression of the figures."
Wilhelm again took Shakspeare's part: alleging that he wrote for islanders, for Englishmen, who generally, in the distance, were accustomed to see little else than ships and voyages, the coast of France and privateers ; and thus what perplexed and distracted others was to them quite natural.
Serlo assented; and both of them were of opinion that as the piece was now to be produced upon the German stage, this more serious and simple background was the best adapted for the German mind.
The parts had been distributed before: Serlo undertook Polonius; Aurelia undertook Ophelia ; Laertes was already designated by his name; a young, thick-set, jolly new-comer was to be Horatio; the King and the Ghost alone occasioned some perplexity. For both of these was no one but Old Boisterous remaining Serlo proposed to make the Pedant King; but against this our friend protested in the strongest terms. They could resolve on nothing.
Wilhelm also had allowed both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to continue in his piece. “Why not compress them into one?” said Serlo. “ This abbreviation will not cost you much.”
“ Heaven keep me from such curtailments !” answered Wilhelm; "they destroy at once the sense and the effect. What these two persons are and do it is impossible to represent by
In such small matters we discover Shakspeare's great
These soft approaches, this smirking and bowing, this assenting, wheedling, flattering, this whisking agility, this wagging of the tail, this allness and emptiness, this legal knavery, this ineptitude and insipidity, — how can they be expressed by a single man? There ought to be at least a dozen of these people if they could be had, for it is only in society that they are anything; they are society itself; and Shakspeare showed no little wisdom and discernment in bringing in a pair of them. Besides, I need them as a couple that may be contrasted with the single, noble, excellent Horatio,”
THE INDENTURE. ART is long, life short, judgment difficult, opportunity transient. To act is easy, to think is hard; to act according to our thought is troublesome. Every beginning is cheerful; the threshold is the place of expectation. The boy stands astonished, bis impressions guide him; he learns sportfully, seriousness comes on him by surprise. Imitation is born with us; what should be imitated is not easy to discover. The excellent is rarely found, more rarely valued. The height charms us, the steps to it do not; with the summit in our eye, we love to walk along the plain. It is but a part of art that can be taught; the artist needs it all. Who knows it half, speaks much and is always wrong; who knows it wholly, inclines to act and speaks seldom or late. The former have no secrets and no force; the instruction they can give is like baked bread, savory and satisfying for a single day; but flour cannot be sown, and seed corn ought not to be ground. Words are good, but they are not the best. The best is not to be explained by words. The spirit in which we act is the highest matter. Action can be understood and again represented by the spirit alone. No one knows what he is doing while he acts aright; but of what is wrong we are always conscious. Whoever works with symbols only is a pedant, a hypocrite, or a bungler. There are many such, and they like to be together. Their babbling detains the scholar; their obstinate mediocrity vexes even the best. The instruction which the true artist gives us opens the mind; for where words fail him, deeds speak. The true scholar learns from the known to unfold the unknown, and approaches more and more to being a master.
THE HAZARDOUS WAGER.
(From “ Wilhelm Meister's Travels.") It is a well-known fact that people, as soon as they are in any degree getting on well and after their desires, are straightway at a loss to know what, in their pride of heart, they shall lay their hand to. And thus also mettlesome students were accustomed during the vacations to roam in flocks through the country, playing the fool after their kind, which, in fact, was not always followed by the best results. They were of very different sorts, such as student-life brings together and unites :
VOL. X. -7
unequal in birth, wealth, intellect, and education, but all of them good company, leading and egging-on one another in merry mood. But they would often select me for a companion ; for if I carried heavier burdens than any one of them, yet they must needs give me the honorary title of a great jester; and chiefly for this reason, that I played my pranks more seldom but so much the more effectually — to which the following story may bear witness.
We had arrived in our wanderings at a pleasant mountain village, which with an isolated situation had the advantage of a posting station, and a few pretty girls in great solitude, as inhabitants. Our object was to rest, kill time, flirt, live more cheaply for awhile, and by that means waste more money.
It was just after dinner, when some were in an elevated, others in a depressed condition; some were lying sleeping away their over-indulgence, others would rather give it vent in some unrestrained way or other. We had a couple of large rooms in a side wing towards the courtyard. A fine carriage which rattled in with four horses attracted us to the window. The servants jumped down from the box and helped out a gentleman of dignified and distinguished appearance, who notwithstanding his years still walked up vigorously enough.
His large and finely formed nose first caught my eye, and I know not what evil spirit was prompting me that in a moment I hit on the maddest scheme, and without furthur thought immediately began to put it in practice.
“What is your opinion of this gentleman ?” I asked of the company
“He looks,” said one, “as if he would not stand a joke.”
“Aye, aye,” said another, “he has quite the look of a distinguished • Meddle-not-with-me.''
“ And nevertheless," said I, quite confidently," what do you bet that I will not tweak him by the nose without getting any harm from it myself! Nay, I will even get him to be a good patron to myself by doing it.
“If you accomplish that,” said Swagger, “we'll each give you a louis-d'or."
• Pay in the money for me,” I exclaimed; “I rely upon you.”
“I had rather pluck a hair from a lion's muzzle," said the little one.
“I have no time to lose,” replied I, and rushed downstairs.