Imágenes de páginas

upon the phantoms of imagination, they difcover them to have been mere fhadows, formed by ignorance. The thunderbolts of Jove, forged in Cimmerian caves; the ceftus of Venus, woven by hands of the attracting Graces, ceafe to terrify and allure. Echo, from an amorous nymph, fades into voice, and nothing more; the very threads of Iris's scarf are untwifted; all the poet's fpells are broken, his charms diffolved: deferted on his own enchanted ground, he takes refuge in the groves of philofophy; but there his divinities evaporate in allegory, in which myftic and infubftantial ftate they do but weakly affift his operations. By aflociating his mufe with philofophy, he hopes the may establish with the learned the worship fhe won from the ignorant; fo makes her quit the old traditional fable, from whence the derived her first authority and power, to follow airy hypothefis, and chimerical fyftems. Allegory, the daughter of fable, is admired by the faftidious wit, and abftrufe fcholar, when her mother begins to be treated as fuperannuated, foolish, and doating; but however well she may please and amuse, not being worshipped as divine, she does not awe and terrify like facred mythology, nor ever can establish the fame fearful devotion, nor asfume fuch arbitrary power over the mind. Her perfon is not adapted to the ftage, nor her qualities to the bufinefs and end of dramatic reprefentation. L'Abbe du Bos has judiciously diftinguifhed the reafons why allegory is not fit for the drama. What the critic inveftigated by art and ftudy, the wisdom of nature unfolded to our unlettered poet, or he would not have refifted the prevalent fashion of his allegorizing age; efpecially as Spenfer's Fairy Queen was the admired work of the times.

Allegorical beings, performing acts of chivalry, fell in with the taste of an age that affected abstruse learning, romantic valour, and high-flown gallantry. Prince Arthur the British Hercules, was brought from ancient ballads and romances, to be allegorized into VOL. II. the


the knight of magnanimity, at the court of Gloriana. His knights followed him thither, in the fame moralized garb, and even the queftynge beaft received no lefs honour and improvement from the allegorizing art of Spencer, as has been fhewn by a critic of great learning, ingenuity, and taste, in his Obfervations on the Fairy Queen.

Our firft theatrical entertainments, after we emerged from grofs barbarism, were of the allegorical kind. The Christmas carol, and carnival fhews, the pious pastimes of our holy-days, were turned into pagean- . tries and mafques, all fymbolical and allegorical.Our stage rofe from hymns to the virgin, and encomiums on the patriarchs and faints: as the Grecian tragedies from the hymns to Bacchus. Our early poets added narration and action to this kind of pfalmody, as Efchylus had done to the fong of the goat. Much more rapid indeed was the progrefs of the Grecian Rage towards perfection.-Philofophy, poetry, eloquence, all the fine arts, were in their meridian glory, when the drama first began to dawn at Athens, and gloriously it fhone forth, illuminated by every kind of intellectual light.

S. in the dark shades of Gothic barbarism, had no refources but in the very phantoms that walked the night of ignorance and fuperftition: or in touching the latent paffions of civil rage and difcord; fure to please beft his fierce and barbarous audience, when he raised the bloody ghoft, or reared the warlike ftandard. His choice of thefe fubjects was judicious, if we confider the times in which he lived; his management of them fo mafterly, that he will be admired in all times.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

In the fame age, Ben. Johnson, more proud of his learning than confident of his genius, was defirous to give a metaphyfical air to his compofitions. He compofed many pieces of the allegorical kind, established on the Grecian mythology, and rendered his play-house a perfect pantheon.-S. difdained thefe

quaint devices; an admirable judge of human nature, with a capacity moft extenfive, and an invention most happy, he contented himself with giving dramátic manners to history, fublimity and its appropriated powers and charms to fiction; and in both thefe arts he is unequalled.—The Catiline and Sejanus of Johnfon are cold, crude, heavy pieces; turgid where they fhould be great; bombaft where they should be fub. lime; the fentiments extravagant; the manners exaggerated; and the whole undramatically conducted by long fenatorial fpeeches, and flat plagiarisms from Tacitus and Salluft. Such of this author's pieces as he boasts to be grounded on antiquity and folid learning, and to lay hold on removed myfteries*, have neither the majefty of S's ferious fables, nor the pleafing fportfulness and poetical imagination of his fairy tales.And indeed if we compare our countryman, in this refpect, not only with the moderns, but the most admired writers of antiquity, we shall not find him inferior to them."

The reader will find fome attempts, on this head, in the Introduction to Hamlet and Macbeth. See also the clofe of this admirable play-The Tempeft.

Prologue to the Mafque of Queens.

[blocks in formation]
[merged small][ocr errors]

The Tempest.


Miranda's Compaffion.

Mir. O, I have fuffer'd

With those that I faw fuffer! A brave veffel,
Who had, no doubt, fome noble creatures in her,
Dash'd all to pieces. O the cry did knock
Against my very heart! Poor fouls! they perifh'd.
Had I been any god of power, I would
Have funk the fea within the earth, or e're,
It should the good fhip fo have fwallow'd, and
The fraighting fouls within her.

Pro. Wipe thou thine eyes, have comfort,
The direful spectacle of the wreck, which touch'd
The very virtue (1) of compaffion in thee,
I have with fuch provision in mine art
So fafely order'd, that there is no foul (2)
No not fo much perdition as an hair,
Betid to any creature in the vessel,

Which thou heard'st cry, which thou faw'st fink.


(1) The very virtue.] i. e. the most efficacious part; the energetic quality; in a like fenfe we fay, "the virtue of a plant is in the extract." 7.

(2) There is no foul.] i. e. no foul loft. The sentence is broken and interrupted, by the zeal of the speaker, who hurries to a fuller manner of expreffing the matter in hand. "Such interrupted sentences," St. obferves justly, “ are not uncommon to S.: he fometimes begins a fentence, and


An ufurping Subflitute compared to Ivy.

That (3) now he was

The ivy which had hid my princely trunk,
And fuck'd my verdure out on't.

Confidence betrayed.

My truft

Like a good parent, did beget of him
A falfehood, in its contrary as great
As my trust was; which had, indeed, no limit;
A confidence fans bound. He being thus lorded
Not only with what my revenue yielded,
But what my power might elfe exact, like one (4)
Who having, unto truth, by telling of it,
Made fuch a finner of his memory
To credit his own lie,—he did believe
He was indeed the duke.

Infant Innocence.

Mir. Alack! what trouble Was I then to you!


before he concludes it, entirely changes the conftruction, because another more forcible occurs. As this change frequently happens in converfation, it may be fuffered to pafs uncenfured in the language of the stage." See Acts,

c. xxvii. v. 22—34.

(3) That, &c.] See Much ado about Nothing, A& 3.

Sc. I.

(4) Like one, &c.] W. reads thus,

-Like one,

Who having unto truth, by telling oft,
Made, &c.

The conftruction as it ftands, is rather irregular: lie however appears to be the substantive to which it refers.

Telling of it, i.e. his own lie.

« AnteriorContinuar »