« AnteriorContinuar »
Si vis me flere, dolendum eft
And it may be worth observing, that Horace gives this precept particularly to Thew, that bombast and innatural. sentiments are incapable of moving the tender paffions, which he is directing the poet how to raise. For, in the lines just before, he gives this rule,
Telephus & Pellus, cùm pauper & exul uterque
Projicit Ampullus, & squipedalia verba. Not that I would deny, that very bad lines in bad tragedies have had this effect. But then it always proceeds from one or other of these causes.
1. Either when the subject is domestic, and the scene lies at home; the spectators, in this case, become interested in the fortunes of the distressed; and their thoughts are so much taken up with the subject, that they are not at liberty to attend to the poet; who, otherwise, by his faulty sentiments and diction, would have stifled the einotions springing up from a sense of the distress. But this is nothing to the case in hand. For, as Hamlet says,
What's Hecuba to him, or be to Hécuba? 2. When bad lines raise this affection, they are bad: in the other extreme; low, abject, and groveling, instead of being highly figurative and swelling; yet, when attended with a natural fimplicity, they have force enough to strike illiterate and simple minds. The trije gedies of Banks will justify both these observations.
But if any one will still say, that Shakespear intended to represent a player unnaturally and fantasticaliy affected, we must appeal to Hamlet, that is, to Shakespear himself in this matter; who, on the reflection he makes
upon the player's emotion, in order to excite his own revenge, gives not the least hint that the player was unnaturally or injudicioutly moved. On the contrary, his fine description of the actor's emotion shews, he thought just otherwise :
this player here,
force his soul fo to his own conceit,
Abroken voice, &c. And indeed had Hamlet esteemed this emotion any thing unnatural, it had been a very improper circumstance to fpur himn to his purpose.
As Shakespear has here shewn the effects which a fine description of nature, heightened with all the ornaments of art, had upon an intelligent player, whose bufiness habituates him to enter intimately and deeply into the characters of men and manners, and to give nature its free workings on all occafions; fo he has artfully thewn what effects the very same scene would have upon a quite different man. Polonius; by nature, very weak and very artificial (two qualities, though commonly enough joined in life, yet generally fo much disguised as not to be seen by common eyes to be together; and which an ordinary poet durft not have brought so near one another]; by difcipline,practifed in a species of wit and eloquence, which was ftiff
, forced, and pedantic; and by trade a politician, and therefore, of consequence, without any of the affecting notices of humanity. Such is the man whoin Shakespear has judiciously chofen to represent the falle taste of that audience which had condeinned the play here reciting. When the actor comes to the finett and most pathetic part of the specch, Polonins' cries out, This is too long; on which Hamlet, in contempt of his ill judgment, replies, It hall to the barber's with ty beard; (intimating that, by this judgment, it appeared that all his wisdom lay in his length of beard,] Pr’ythee Say on. He's for a jig or a tale of bawdry ; [the common entertainment of that time, as well as this, of the people) or be flecps, fay on. And yet this man of modern tafte, who stood all this time perfectly unmoved with the forcible imagery of the relater, no sooner hears, amongst many good things, one quaint and fantastical word, put in, I suppose, purposely for this end, than he professes his approbation of the propriety and dignity of it. That's good. Mobled queen is good. : On the the whole then, I think, it plainly appears, that the long quotation is not given to be ridiculed and laughed at, but to be admired. The character given of the play, by Hamlet, cannot be ironical. The patrage itself is extremely beautiful. It has the effect that all pathetic relations, naturally written, should have; and it is condemned, or regarded with indifference, by one of a wrong, unnatural taste. From hence (to observe it by the way) the actors, in their representation of this play, may learn how this speech ought to be spoken, and what appearance Hamlet ought to allume during the recital.
That which supports the common opinion, concerning this pallage, is the turgid expreffion in some parts of it; which they think, could never be given by the poet to be cominended. We shall therefore, in the next place, examine the lines most obạoxious to cenfure, and see how much, allowing the charge, this will make for the induction of their conclufion.
Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage frikes wide,
The unnerved father falls.
Out, out, thou firumpet Fortune! All you gods,
Now whether these be bombast or not, is not tħe question; but whether Shakespear esteemed them fo. That he did not so esteem theni appears from his having used the very fame thoughts in the fame expressions, in his best plays, and given them to his principal charac.. ters, where he aims at the sublime. As in the following passages.
Troilus, in Troilus and Crisida, far outstrains the execution of Pyrrhus's sword, in the character he gives of Helor's :
Wen many times the caitive Grecians fall
You bid them rise and live. Cleopatra, in Antony and Cleopatra, rails at fortune in the saine manner:
No, let me freak, and let me railf bigh,
Provok'd at my offence. But another use may be made of these quotations ; a discovery of this recited play : which, letting us into a circumstance of our author's life (as a writer) hitherto unknown, was the reason I have been so large upon this question. I think then it appears, from what has been said, that the play in dispute was Shakespear's own; and that this was the occasion of writing it. He was defirous, as soon as he had found his strength, of restoring the chafteness and regularity of the ancient stage: and therefore composed this tragedy on the model of the Greek drama, as may be seen by throwing so much action into relation. But his attempt proved fruitless; and the raw, unnatural taste, then prevalent, forced him back again into his old Gothic manner. For which he took this revenge upon his audience. WARBURTON.
THE praise which Hamlet bestows on this piece is certainly dilsembled, and agrees very well with the
character of madness, which, before witnesses, he thought it necessary to support. The speeches before us havo so little merit, 'that nothing but an affectation of fingu. larity, could have influenced Dr. Warburton to undertake their defence. The poet, perhaps, meant to exhibit a just resemblance of some of the plays of his own age, in which the faults were too general and too glaring to permit a few fplendid pafges to atone for them. The player knew his trade, and spoke the lines in an affecting manner, because Hamlet had declared them to be pathetic, or might be in re:lity a little mored by them: for, “ There are less degrees of nature (says * Dryden) by which some faint einotions of pity and
terror are raised in us, as a less engine will raise a " less proportion of weight, though not so much as one
of Archimedes' making." The mind of the prince, it must be confessed, was fitted for the reception of gloomy ideas, and his tears were ready at a flight folicitation. It is by no means proved, that Shakespear has employed the same thoughts cloathed in the same expreffiins, in his best plays. If he bids the false bufqvife Fortune break her wheel, he does not defire her to break all its Spokes; nay, even its periphery, and make use of the nave afterwards for such an immeasurahlè caft. Though if what Dr. Warburton has said should be found in any instance to be exactly true, what can we infer from thence, but that Shakespear was sometimes wrong in spite of .conviction, and in the hurry of writing committed those very faults which his judgment could detect in others ? Dr. Warburton is inconfistent in his assertions concern. ing the literature of Shakespear. In a note on Troilus and Grefsida, he affirms, that his want of learning kept him froin being acquainted with the writings of Homer; and, in this instance, would suppose him capable of producing a complete tragedy written on the ancient rules: and that the speech before us had sufficient merit to entitle it to a place in the second book of Virgil's Æneid, even though the work had been carried to that perfection which the Roman poet bad conceived.