페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

astonishing, considering the quantity of neglect, that there is not an immense deal more, and thence I infer that with adequate attention in the proper direction, there would be an immense diminution. The principal means of accomplishing this is by moral influence to be derived from improved parochial government, carried on by the most worthy part of the community, most of whom now either take no part in public affairs, or employ their efforts on expedients for government, instead of in government. This is the only system for a free and Christian country, and to this we must come.

ROMEO AND JULIET.

In no other writings, in any language I believe, is to be found united, in the same degree as in those of Shakspeare, the force of reality with vividness of imagination. Hogarth's paintings eminently exhibit the same qualities, but, comparatively speaking, in an extremely limited range. He descends as low as Shakspeare, but is at an immeasurable distance from him in whatever partakes of the sublime and beautiful; or rather, I think, he seldom touches on the beautiful, and never on the sublime. In what he does delineate, from the drawingroom in Marriage-à-la-mode to the night cellar in the Stages of Cruelty, there is a truth and imagination, so far as the pencil goes, utterly unrivalled. Shakspeare generally writes as if, by some magical art, he had conjured up the scene before him, and had only put down what his characters themselves had uttered, so faithful is it not only to nature, but to the actual circumstances. As instances of this, I will only mention the quarrel between Hotspur and Glendower over the map of England, in the First Part of Henry the Fourth; the dialogue between Hotspur and his wife whilst he is thinking of his roan horse, in the same play; the scene between Hamlet and the gravedigger; and, lastly, the celebrated balcony-scene in Romeo and Juliet, an unaccountable mistake in which, in the different editions and in the representation, suggested to me this article. In the days of Miss O'Neill, I saw the play on twelve different occasions, and for some time it struck me that during Romeo's soliloquy that accomplished actress was always rather awkward, and at a loss to know what to do with herself, as also that the soliloquy itself was not altogether clear and applicable. As this was neither O'Neillian nor Shakspearian, I examined into the matter, and found the cause to be a mistake in the stage directions, which destroyed the beauty and propriety of the soliloquy; and in order to make it at all consistent, a transposition is made, and, if I recollect right, some omission. The misdirection runs, I believe, through all the editions, and it seems to me most extraordinary that it was never detected. The scene arises out of the following circumstances, and its truth to nature entirely depends upon them. Romeo and Juliet fall deeply in love with each other at a ball at Juliet's father's house, where Romeo had introduced bimself in mask for the purpose of seeing Juliet's cousin, for whom he entertained a very strong, but unrequited passion. He is there struck with Juliet's extreme loveliness, and suddenly transfers his full-grown passion to her. She, on the other hand, has just had marriage put into her head for the first time, and a match proposed to her by her mother, to which she answers,

I'll look to like, if looking liking move. In this state she is passionately addressed by the most accomplished youth in Verona, who, when he is gone, and an impression made, she discovers to be the only son of her father's deadly enemy

My only love sprung from my only hate. According to the dictates of nature, her love for such an object becomes violent in proportion to the obstacles which it presents. After the ball, Romeo, rivetted to the spot

Can I go forward, when my heart is here?--

scales the garden wall, and hears the volatile Mercutio making jokes on his former passion, on which he appropriately remarks,

He jests at scars that never felt a wound;

then obşerving light appear through a window, as from some one entering a room with a lamp, he exclaims,

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?

and, with a most beautiful comparison, adds,

It is the east, and Juliet is the sun ! Having caught the idea, and with the waning moon above him, he goes on in the true Italian style of poetry and love,

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she :
Be not her maid since she is envious ;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it;-cast it off.

At the conclusion of this passage, Juliet advances to the balcony, and, not as in the books and on the stage, before the words,

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks ? In the representation, after this last line, is introduced, out of its place,

It is my lady; 0, it is my love!
O that she knew she were !

In short, the whole of this beautiful soliloquy is made into what I can only adequately express by using the familiar phrase, "a complete hash.” As soon as Romeo sees his conjecture realized, he rapturously exclaims,

It is my lady, O it is my love !
O that she knew she were !

and the rest of his observations are naturally called forth by Juliet's as natural actions The remainder of the soliloquy peculiarly illustrates what I have said respecting Shakspeare's art in conjuring up the scene; and though this tragedy is not amongst his highest, I consider it as one of his most extraordinary and beautiful efforts. I think it is Aristotle who says, that when we are thinking of what is past, we look downwards, and when of what is to come, upwards. I suppose Juliet to enter the balcony with downcast look, in deep thought on what had passed between herself and Romeo. At length, with some exclamation dying on her lip, she slowly raises her eyes, as if to read in the stars her future fate; on all of which Romeo, who is intently watching her, minutely comments as follows:

She speaks-yet she says nothing. What of that?
Her
eye

discourses ; I will answer it. -
I am too bold, 'tis not to me she speaks.

When her eye moves upwards to his level, he is on the point of advancing; but when it reaches the stars, he checks himself with a lover's diffidence, and then breaks out into a lover's rhapsody :

Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head ?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright,

That birds would sing and think it were not night. In her inquietude of mind, Juliet here changes her position, which calls forth from Romeo the well-known gallant passage,

See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand !
O that I were a glove upon that hand
That I might touch that cheek !

At length Juliet, seeing no end to her perplexity, exclaims in
despair, "Ah me!” on which Romeo waits all attentive, and
then falls into anothey rhapsody.

She speaks!
O, speak again, bright angel! for thou art
As glorious to this night, being o'er my head,
As is a winged messenger of heaven
Unto the white, upturned, wond’ring eyes
Of mortals, that fall back to gaze on him,
When he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds,

And sails upon the bosom of the air.
Here, interrupted by Juliet's exclamations, ends this fa-
mous soliloquy, to the mangled, and as it seems to me only half
understood beauties of which I have endeavoured to render
justice. If I have succeeded, where so many others have failed,
it is entirely owing to the spirit I imbibed from so frequently
witnessing the performances of the accomplished actress I
have already mentioned. She illuminated her author with her
loveliness, and gave a purer taste and more accurate percep-
tion to her auditors—at least to those who had taste and

perception capable of improvement. It is a curious fact with respect to the passages immediately following the soliloquy, that the impassioned fancies of a love-sick girl should have furnished part of the common currency of our language. “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo ?" and “ What's in a name !" are phrases of every day use. Throughout scene Juliet's character is full of beautiful touches. Her anxiety, in the first instance, for Romeo's safety whilst in her father's garden, her curiosity to know how he found out the place, her full and ingenuous confession in return for his avowal of love, her protest that she should have been more strange, but that he overheard,ere she was aware, her true love's passion, her repugnance to any oath, her misgiving as to so sudden and unadvised a contract, her hope that it might prove fortunate, her expression of conscious innocence, her profession of boundless attachment, follow each other beautifully and suc

1

« 이전계속 »