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of very ordinary individuality, is nevertheless the representative of a certain general direction of mind, as I have already pointed out in a close analysis of it. The conception of Iphigenia is evidently the life-endowed ideal of pure absolute womanhood; and she pos sesses only so much of individuality as suffices for this vitality. It is only by such an ideality that she could have been capacitated, or could deem herself called upon, to effect her brother's expiation, and to dissolve the destructive contradiction of conflicting moral duties. Moreover, with all this we have combined something of the mythological and typical generality of the Grecian heroes and demigods.
Lastly, there can be no doubt that "Eugenie," too, possesses this same general allegorical significancy, for the whole poem bears too evidently the stamp of allegory. It is this idealising, or rather generalising, that here, as in "Faust," constitutes the extraordinary and unusual features of her character.
These two leading periods of Goethe's political career are correspondently marked in the language and diction of his dramas. Generally speaking, it is characterised by a lyrical flow and flexibility, a musical uniformity of structure, a deep harmony of rhythm and cadence, a graceful measured movement, which delights to linger to pluck every flower by the way, a soft melodious tone, and an agreeable fulness of words and images. As its object is to paint not so much the act and the active faculty, the energy of the will and affections, as rather the internal life of the mind and feelings, it has no call for the breaks and sharp contrasts, the inequality and ruggedness, the springing impetuosity, the striking brevity of wit and acuteness, the ardour which accumulates image upon images, and ransacks heaven and earth for figures,—in short, the vigorous, illimitable, real and palpable impressiveness of Shakspeare's diction. And, on the other hand, as Goethe's language was designed not so much to exaggerate or set off the action, as rather to be the utterance of feelings and affections, thoughts and meditations, in their pure immediateness, it required not Calderon's copiousness of word and phrase, his rich ornateness of diction and pomp of imagery, nor his motley-coloured play of antitheses and assonances,―cadences, rhyme, and mea
sures. In a word, Shakspeare speaks the language of will and action; Calderon narrates in the style of phantasy and reflection; while Goethe's diction on the other hand is the language of the heart and feelings. Shakspeare is the most dramatic, Calderon inclines towards an epical style, and Goethe to the lyrical. However, the general features of Goethe's diction appear greatly modified in the first period. The more direct immediateness with which his view of things here gains utterance, the more decided and defined individuality of the acting personages, causes the diction to adjust itself in a greater degree, and to change in accordance to the subject-matter and to the several characters and situations. In "Goetz von Berlichingen" he has succeeded even in exposing the character of the whole age in which its action lay, by giving a peculiar and appropriate colouring to the language; the nervous forcible expression, the prominent muscular structure of the period, which is something deficient in flesh and plumpness; the apparent unwieldiness and ponderousness, the involution and ellipses of the mediæval phraseology, are here naturally and easily combined with the modern style and Goethe's ресиliar diction: all which suits excellently with the personality of the hero, and heightens in a great degree the immediate vividness of the expression both of the thoughts and feelings. In "Clavigo" and "Stella," on the other hand, more than in any other of Goethe's pieces, the language rises to the height of passion and affection, is less calm, fuller of movement, more rapid, is less diffusive, and hastens more directly to its end; whereas, in "Egmont," the bold recklessness and light-mindedness, the same rashness and freedom which characterise the mind of the hero, are likewise apparent in the general cast of the language; the very rhythm, fluctuating between verse and prose, which on other accounts would be justly open to censure, may perhaps be supposed to possess a delicate reference to Egmont's character. This dependence of the language of the whole piece on the character of the hero is another peculiar feature of Goethe's poesy, and fully corresponds with his method of characterization and composition.
The principal works of the second period are marked by this not unimportant difference from those of the first, that while some
of the latter are in prose, these are without exception in verse. The loftier ideality of the characters, the more entire absence of personal peculiarities, and the greater simplicity and inwardness of the action, required also a more ideal shape for the outward form. On the other side, the prosaic element of reflection, which had gained more and more upon the other parts of the drama, needed to be clothed and ennobled by a more highly poetic cast of diction. These two causes at the same time led on the one hand to the greater diffusiveness with which feelings and affections here find their utterance—and in which again Goethe approaches to Calderon's manner-while on the other they occasioned greater uniformity both in the structure and colouring of the language. Essentially, indeed, all the different personages in "Tasso," "Iphigenia," and "The Natural Daughter," and the greater part of them in "Faust" also, speak in the same tone. Moreover, each of these poems, taken as a whole, in respect to language differs less from each other than from the pieces of the last period. In them, therefore, those great excellencies of style,-harmony of structure, symmetrical arrangement of rhythm, graceful movement, a natural and easy flow of the versification, a well-poised alternation of plain and figurative language, have attained their highest perfection. But at the same time the diction itself is by these means made on the whole too polished, soft, and agreeable, and too melodious; all corners are rounded off, there are no harsh lines, all dissonances of life and reality are dissolved, or drowned beneath the full swell of harmonious accords and melodies. In this respect Goethe stands somewhat in the same relation to Shakspeare as, in drawing, light, and colouring, Correggio does to Raffaelle; all seems to be blended together, and pervaded with a soft chiaro-oscuro. But such, however, is not the light of historical reality. In real life contrasts stand out more prominently, and both in word and deed proclaim aloud their jarring dissonance. Such all-pervading harmony, therefore, can only suit characters whose ideality raises them more or less above reality, or in whom the ferment of life has
* In "The Natural Daughter," for instance, the lamentations in which the Archduke pours forth the feelings of his heart upon the supposed death of Eugenie, take up the whole of the third act.
already so far worked itself off, that outwardly at least it cannot again be set in violent action, (as is the case for the most part in "Tasso," "Iphigenia," and "The Natural Daughter.") Further, it is only suitable to a view of life in which the eternal order is not disturbed really and objectively, but only apparently, and in the bare opinion of man: and such is Goethe's view, according to which, evil, as merely a primary mental contradiction, is not really evil, but nothing more than another form of, and a circuitous road to the good.
Lastly, as concerns Goethe's invention, i. e. according to the usual acceptation of the term, the entanglement and disentanglement of the outward circumstances, relations, and incidents; all this, agreeably to Goethe's general view of life, and his peculiar characterization, composition, and diction, must have possessed less importance in his sight than in Shakspeare's. The less the influence of the external world is supposed to be, and the more everything is regarded as a consequence of the mental subjectivity, or the character of the acting personages, the less occasion must there be for a particularly difficult complication of circumstances. For wherever the latter exists, it must necessarily exercise its power even in a high degree over the subjectivity itself. Accordingly, Goethe's exposition of the plot is always extremely simple -much simpler than Shakspeare's, and the direct opposite of Calderon's. In "Stella," "Clavigo," "Tasso," and "Faust," there is not, we might almost say, any invention, in the true sense of the word; so complete an absence is there of anything like external complication of the action, so entirely does the whole interest revolve around the internal conflict in the mind of the dramatic personages, so completely is their outward position the simple consequence of their characters, and so entirely of their own causing. There is more of invention in "Iphigenia" and "The Natural Daughter," but most in "Goetz von Berlichingen," but yet in such wise that the complicated position of affairs is antecedent to and external to the exhibited story. It is not the action itself that first fastens the knot, but what it effects is rather the dissolution of it through the development of the characters of the dramatic personages, and independently of outward
events, accidental circumstances, and the like, which do not contribute in the least to this end.
Goethe accordingly sets little if any value upon the invention. Like Shakspeare, he borrows the materials of his poems sometimes from tradition and history ("Iphigenia," "Faust," "Goetz," "Egmont," "Tasso"), sometimes from contemporary memoirs ("Clavigo," "The Natural Daughter"), or else he works up immediate events of the day (as in "Stella," where however he has availed himself also of the legend of the "Graf Gleichen," and in the "Gross Coptha," &c.); for his smaller pieces he often made use of some old ballad, tale, or the like (Erwin and Elmire-Claudine von Villabella). Now in all this his chief peculiarity is, that whereas Shakspeare has never adopted for the subject-matter of his works events of contemporary history, the passing incidents of the day, or matters of his own personal experience (as Goethe to all appearance has done in "Tasso"), the contrary is the case with Goethe;-a fact which is accounted for when we call to mind that all his works were occasional pieces. In the next place, it is remarkable that Goethe in general altered his given materials in a far greater degree than Shakspeare ever did. This may be distinctly proved in the case of all his dramas (in Goetz, however, least of all) when we compare them with those pieces of Shakspeare, in composing which the English dramatist had before him not rude and unshapen dat a (as probably was the case with "Hamlet" and "Lear"), but a tolerably finished original, and more especially still when we compare them with his historical pieces. The cause of this readily presents itself. In real life and history, external relations, circumstances overlooked, and unexpected events and accidents, as they are called, exercise considerable influence. But all this Goethe must get rid of: if all must appear dependent on the individuality of the acting personages, the author must shape the given matter in accordance therewith, here adding and there subtracting a little. It is in this sense alone that Goethe usually invents and changes. Egmont, for instance, according to history is a father with a large family of children. But this fact was unsuited for Goethe's poetical conception of his character, (Works, 48, 177, Conversations with Eckerman, ibid.): it is