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affection speaks that her spirit is hushed into the listening which she would fain yield only to the speech of reason. She has a clear idea of the stoical calmness and fortitude which appear so noble and so graceful in her Brutus; it all lies faithfully reproduced in her mind; she knows well how to honour and admire it; yet she cannot work it into the texture of her character; she can talk it like a book, but she tries in vain to live it.
Plutarch gives one most touching incident respecting her which the Poet did not use, though he transfused the sense of it into his work. It occurred some time after Cæsar's death, and when the civil war was growing to a head :
Brutus, seeing the state of Rome would be utterly overthrown, went to the city of Elea standing by the sea. There Portia, being ready to depart from her husband and return to Rome, did what she could to dissemble the sorrow she felt. But a certain painting bewrayed her in the end. The device was taken out of the Greek stories, how Andromache accompanied her husband Hector when he went out of Troy to the wars, and how Hector delivered her his little son, and how her eyes were never off him. Portia, seeing this picture, and likening herself to be in the same case, fell a-weeping; and, coming thither oftentimes in a day to see it, she wept still.” The force of this incident is indeed all reproduced in the Portia of the play ; we have its full effect in the matter about her self-inflicted wound as compared with her subsequent demeanour; still I cannot help wishing the Poet had made use of the incident itself.
Portia gives herself that gash without flinching, and bears it without a murmur, as an exercise and proof of manly fortitude ; and she translates her pains into smiles, all to comfort and support her husband. So long as this purpose lends her strength, she is fully equal to her thought, because here her heart keeps touch perfectly with her head. But, this motive gone, the weakness, if it be not rather the strength, of her woman's nature rushes full upon her; her feelings rise into an uncontrollable flutter, and run out at every joint and motion of her body; and nothing cap arrest the inward mutiny till affection again whispers her into composure, lest she spill something that may hurt or endanger her Brutus. O noble Portia! Well might the poet Campbell say, “ For the picture of that wedded pair, at once august and tender, human nature and the dignity of conjugal faith are indebted.”
A rounded analysis of Antony belongs to a later period, when his native aptitudes for vice were warmed into full development by the charms of the great Egyptian sorceress ; and only a few of his points as set forth in this play call for present notice. His unreserved adulation of Cæsar, and reckless purveying to Cæsar's dangerous weakness in craving to be called a king when he already had far more than kingly power, and while the obvious part of a friend was to warn him from it and help him against it, — this is wisely retained by the Poet as one of Antony's characteristic traits. Then too we have apt indications here and there of his proneness to those vicious levities and debasing luxuries which afterwards ripened into such a gigantic profligacy. He has not yet attained to that rank and fullblown combination of cruelty, perfidy, and voluptuousness, which the world associates with his name, but he is plainly on the way to it. His profound and wily dissimulation, while knitting up the hollow truce with the assassins on the very spot where “ great Cæsar fell,” is managed with admirable skill ; his deep spasms of grief being worked out in just the right way to quench their suspicions, and make them run into the toils when he calls on them to render him their bloody hands. Nor have they any right to complain, for he is but paying them in their own coin ; and we think none the worse of him, that he fairly outdoes them at their own practice.
But Antony's worst parts as here delivered are his exultant treachery in proposing to use his colleague Lepidus as at once the pack-horse and the scape-goat of the Triumvi
rate, and his remorseless savagery in arranging for the slaughter of all that was most illustrious in Rome, bartering away his own uncle, to glut his revenge with the blood of Cicero; though even here his revenge was less hideous than the cold blooded policy of young Octavius. Yet Antony has in the play, as he had in fact, some right-noble streaks in him ; for his character was a very mixed one; and there was to the last a fierce war of good and evil within him. Especially he had an eye to see, a heart to feel, and a soul to honour the superb structure of manhood which Rome possessed in Julius Cæsar, who stood to him indeed as a kind of superior nature, to raise him above himself. He “ fear'd Cæsar, honour'd him, and loved him”; and this religious gravitation towards him was honourable to them both. Antony's usual style of oratory is said to have been rather of the bloated and gassy sort; yet, with the murdered Cæsar for his theme, he was for once inspired and kindled to a rapture of the truest, noblest, most overwhelming eloquence; his actual performance being hardly exaggerated by the oration Shakespeare puts in his mouth. Nor must I omit the grateful remembrance at last of his obligations to Brutus for having saved him from the daggers of the conspirators.
That many-headed, but withal big-souled creature, the multitude, is charmingly characterized in these scenes. It is true, they are rather easily swayed hither and thither by the contagion of sympathy and of persuasive speech; yet their feelings are in the main right, and even their judgment in the long run is better than that of the pampered Roman aristocracy, inasmuch as it proceeds more from the instincts of manhood. Shakespeare evidently loved to play with the natural, unsophisticated, though somewhat childish heart of the people ; but his playing is always genial and humanhearted, with a certain angelic humour in it that seldom fails to warm us towards the subject. On the whole, he understood the people well, and they have well repaid him in un
derstanding him better, I suspect, than the critics have done. The cobbler's droll humour, at the opening of this play, followed as it is by a strain of the loftiest poetry, is aptly noted by Campbell as showing that the Poet, “even in dealing with classical subjects, laughed at the classic fear of putting the ludicrous and sublime into juxtaposition.”
As a whole, this play is several degrees inferior to Coriolanus. Admirable as is the characterization, regarded individually, still, in respect of dramatic composition, the play does not, to my mind, stand among the Poet's masterpieces. But it abounds in particular scenes and passages fraught with the highest virtue of his genius. Among these may be specially mentioned the second scene of the first Act, where Cassius lays the egg of the conspiracy in Brutus's mind, warmed with such a wrappage of instigation as to assure its being quickly hatched. Also, the first scene of the second Act, unfolding the birth of the conspiracy, and winding up with the interview, so charged with domestic glory, of Brutus and Portia. The oration of Antony in Cæsar's funeral is such an interfusion of art and passion as realizes the very perfection of its kind. Adapted at once to the comprehension of the lowest mind and to the delectation of the highest, and running its pathos into the very quick of them that hear it, it tells with terrible effect on the people ; and when it is done we feel that Cæsar's bleeding wounds are mightier than ever his genius and fortune were. The quarrel of Brutus and Cassius is deservedly celebrated. Dr. Johnson thought it, “ somewhat cold and unaffecting.” Coleridge thought otherwise. (I know,” says he, no part of Shakespeare that more impresses on me the belief of his genius being superhuman than this scene.” I am content to err with Coleridge here, if it be an error. But there is nothing in the play that seems to me more divinely touched than the brief scene, already noticed, of Brutus and his boy Lucius. And what a dear little fellow Lucius is ! 30 gentle, so dutiful, so loving, so thoughtful and careful for his master; and yet himself no more conscious of his virtue than a flower of its fragrance. His falling asleep in the midst of his song, and his exclaiming on being aroused, - The strings, my lord, are false," are so good that I cannot speak of them.
HAMLET, PRINCE OF DENMARK.
6 THE REVENGE OF HAMLET, Prince of Denmark, as it was lately acted by the Lord Chamberlain's Servants," was registered at the Stationers' on the 26th of July, 1602. This entry undoubtedly refers to Shakespeare's tragedy, and is the first we hear of it. The tragedy was printed in 1603. It was printed again in 1604; and in the title-page of that issue we have the words, “enlarged to almost as much again as it was.” This latter edition was reprinted in 1605, and again in 1611 ; besides an undated quarto, which is commonly referred to 1607, as it was entered at the Stationers' in the Fall of that year. These are all the issues known to have been made before the play reappeared in the folio of 1623. The quartos, all but the first, have a number of highly important passages that are not in the folio ; while, on the other hand, the folio has a few, less important, that are wanting in the quartos.
It is generally agreed that the first issue was piratical. It gives the play but about half as long as the later quartos, and carries in its face abundant evidence of having been greatly marred and disfigured in the making-up. Dyce says, “ It seems certain that in the quarto of 1603 we have Shakespeare's first conception of the play, though with a text mangled and corrupted throughout, and perhaps formed on the notes of some short-hand writer, who had imperfectly taken it down during representation.” Nevertheless it is evident that the play was very different then from what it afterwards became. Polonius is there called Corambis, and