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Arthur Brooke's Poem.

63

Juliet

say

is derived from Brooke's poem; but Mercutio is indebted altogether to Shakspere's inspiration for his fancy, his valour, and his wit; in fact, for every thing but his name. The self-determined volition of the two devoted lovers is as strongly marked in the poem as in the play. The same characteristic is exhibited in another shape in their brave and youthful friend, who supplies a motive for Romeo's attack on Tybalt. How finely all this is imagined, and how judiciously it is introduced as an element in the dramatic development, only they can feel who have had some experience in dramatic composition. To Shakspere alone belongs the credit of this.

What further merit the dramatist may claim connects itself with the elegance of his style; by means of which the grossness or crudeness in the language of the poem was refined in the drama to such an extent that our most recent poet could scarcely hare exceeded the purity and delicacy of its diction. As an instance of this, compare the following passage from the poem with Juliet's soliloquy in her chamber just before taking the potion supplied to her by the friar:

“What do I know (quoth she) if that this powder shall

Sooner or later then it should, or els not woorke at all ?
And then my craft descride as open as the day,
The peoples tale and laughing stocke shall I remayn for aye?
And what know I (quoth she) if serpentes odious,
And other beastes and wormes that are of nature venomous,
That wonted are to lurke in darke caves under grounde,
And commonly, as I have heard, in dead men's tombes are found,
Shall harme me, yea or nay, where I shall lye as ded?-
Or how shall I that alway have in so freshe ayre been bred,

Endure the loathsome stinke of such an heaped store
Of carkases not yet consumde, and bones that long before
Intombed were, where I my sleping place shall have,
Where all my auncesters doe rest, my kindred's common grave ?
Shall not the fryer and my Romeus, when they come,
Find me (if I awake before) ystified in my tombe ?-
And whilst she in these thoughtes doth dwelle somewhat too long,
The force of her ymagining anon dyd waxe so strong,
That she surmysde she saw, out of the hollow vaulte,
(A griesly thing to looke upon) the carkas of Tybalt;
Right in the selfesame sort that she few dayes before
Had seene him in his blood embrewde, to death eke wounded sore."

These reflections, however, in the poem take place after Juliet has laid herself down in the bed; in the play, before. Drama and epic are two diverse arts, the conditions of which are different, and necessitate a different treatment.

In thus tracing the progress of Shakspere's development in his works, we are led also to study the books which he read, and are so far enabled to estimate the quality of the education which his mind received by their means in the practice of his art. Rude and crude as these tales are to us, they were read by Shakspere with reverence, as his fidelity to so much of their detail unquestionably proves. The Diana of Montemayor would probably be dull enough to a modern reader of George Eliot; nevertheless there are in it a shrewd philosophy and a quaint wit which doubtless Shakspere appreciated. Classical learning abounds in it, but it is mystically applied. Thus the mother of Felismena is made to condemn the judgment of Paris on the ground that, “ though it was written in the apple, that it should be given to

The Ideal and the Real.

65

the fairest, it was not to be understood of corporall beautie, but of the intellectuall beautie of the mind.” The affair of the letter is told very graphically; and the cunning of the servant in taking it away with her, and then at a subsequent interview letting it fall in her sight, is skilfully portrayed. This incident fixes the certainty that Shakspere must have read the story, which I find Mr. Collier doubts. In another particular the play also follows the novel. Songs and sonnets are introduced in both as poetic embellishments of the narrative. The feeling of Felismena, while in the service of her lover as his page, is described with subtlety and psychological tact. Yes-verily it was possible for the author of The Two Gentlemen of Verona to learn something from The Shepherdess Felismena.

He trusted, however, much more to himself. We find him, at this epoch, willing to furnish his plots, in part, out of his own brain, and evolve them as the development of an idea. Out of the life around him, and the life within him, he found it possible to create the king of Navarre and his court, with Biron the courtier, Holofernes the pedant, and Armado the traveller: but the exigences of the stage demanded the results of study as well as of observation, and he soon resorted to Belleforest, Painter, and Brooke for the materials that might be worked up into effective dramas. He had practised his mind in the Realisation of the Ideal; he now set himself the task of idealising the Real. How gloriously he did this, his translation of the history of Hamlet into the poetry of the tragedy abundantly exemplifies. But in rendering poetry into drama le permitted himself fewer liberties. How closely he kept to the letter of Brooke's poem, respecting every where the touches of the previous artist, and only varying from him when the distinct limits of drama and poem compelled a divergence! We see here Shakspere the student, rather than Shakspere the poet. But what a student! One who was already a poet, and more, and could improve on his master. But his reverence for his teacher, however inferior to himself, contains a lesson which for superior minds is frequently as needful as the most elementary instruction to the infantile intelligence. Well it is for us to know that no intellect is so plenary as not to derive benefit from intercourse with even the meanest. The moral humility of Shakspere is equal to his intellectual grandeur: Mental wealth without pride—such is the example that he presents, both in theory and practice, to the most favoured son of genius. One's eyes fill with sweet tears as the hand records the fact, alike so honourable to Shakspere and humanity.

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CHAPTER II.

“Pericles," “ Titus Andronicus,” not Shakspere's-- Pre-Shaksperian

drama-Résumé, and further criticism-Pure comedy—The dialogue of “Hamlet”—Fortinbras—Christian poet A great poet a great philosopher-Poetic instincts—The Infinite in Love-Moderation—The elementary and impulsive, what?

It will have been observed that in the previous chapter we have made no mention of the tragedies entitled Pericles and Titus Andronicus, usually included in Shakspere's works. I do not believe that they proceeded from his pen, though perhaps acted at one of his theatres, and in a small degree corrected by him. They could not have belonged to the same period of his development; for Pericles indicates a mere tyro in the dramatic art, and Titus Andronicus a master in dramatic structure. The language and diction of the two dramas are very different in style, and neither of them is in that of the undoubted Shakspere plays. As to Titus, there is a tradition mentioned in 1687 by Ravenscroft, who remodelled the tragedy, that the production was indeed the work of another author, but that Shakspere added “some master touches to one or two of the principal characters." The style and subject of the drama belong, in fact, to the school that preceded Shakspere; the school of Kyd and Marlowe, and the drama was probably the production of one or other of these writers.

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