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CRITICAL OPINIONS

ON

ROMEO AND JULIE T.

“ROMEO AND JULIET is a picture of love and its pitiable fate, in a world whose atmosphere is too rough for this tenderest blossom of human life. Two beings created for each other feel mutual love at a first glance; every consideration disappears before the irresistible influence of living in one another; they join themselves secretly under circumstances hostile in the highest degree to their union, relying merely on the protection of an invisible power. By unfriendly events, following blow upon blow, their heroic constancy is exposed to all manner of trials, till, forcibly separated from each other, by a voluntary death they are united in the grave to meet again in another world. All this is to be found in the beautiful story which Shakspeare has not invented, and which, however simply told, will always excite a tender sympathy: but it was reserved for Shakspeare to unite purity of heart and the glow of imagination, sweetness and dignity of manners and passionate violence, in one ideal picture. By the manner in which he has handled it, it has become a glorious song of praise on that inexpressible feeling which ennobles the soul and gives to it its highest sublimity, and which elevates even the senses themselves into soul, und, at the same time, is a melancholy elegy on its frailty from its own nature and external circumstances : at once the deification and the burial of love. It appears here like a heavenly spark that, descending to the earth, is converted into a flash of lightning, by which mortal creatures are almost in the same moment set on fire and consumed. Whatever is most intoxicating in the odour of a southern spring, languishing in the song of the nightingale, or voluptuous on the first opening of the rose, is breathed into this poem. But even more rapidly than the earliest blossoms of youth and beauty decay, it hurries on from the first timidly-bold declaration of love and modest return, to the most unlimited passion, to an irrevocable union : then, amidst alternating storms of rapture and despair, to the death of the two lovers, who still appear enviable as their love survives them, and as by their death they have obtained a triumph over every separating power. The sweetest and the bitterest, love and hatred, festivity and dark forebodings, tender embraces and sepulchres, the fulness of life and self-annihilation, are all here brought close to each other : and all these contrasts are so blended, in the harmonious and wonderful work, into a unity of impression, that the echo which the whole leaves behind in the mind, resembles a single but endless sigh.”_SCHLEGEL.

“Whence arises the harmony that strikes us in the wildest natural landscapes,—in the relative shapes of rocks, the harmony of colours in the heaths, ferns, and lichens, the leaves of the beech and the oak, the stems and rich brown branches of the birch and other mountain trees, varying from verging autumn to returning spring,—compared with the visual effect from the greater number of artificial plantations ?— From this, that the natural landscape is affected, as it were, by a single energy, modified ab intra in each component part. And as this is the particular excellence of the Shakspearian drama generally, so is it especially characteristic of the Romeo and Juliet.

“ The groundwork of the tale is altogether in family life, and the events of the play have their first origin in family feuds. Filmy as are the eyes of party-spirit, at once dim and truculent, still there is commonly some real or supposed object in view, or principle to be maintained ; and though but the twisted wires on the plate of rosin in the preparation for electrical pictures, it is still a guide in some degree, an assimilation to an outline. But in family quarrels, which have proved scarcely less injurious to states, wilfulness and precipitancy, and passion from mere habit and custom, can alone be cxpectel With his accustomed judgment, Shakspeare has begun by placing before us a lively picture of all the impulses of the play; and, as nature ever presents two sides, one for Heraclitus, and one for Democritus, he has, by way of prelude, shown the laughable absurdity of the evil by the contagion of it reaching the servants, who have so little to do with it, but who are under the necessity of letting the superfluity of sensoreal power fly off through the escape-valve of wit-combats, and of quarrelling with weapons of sharper edge, all in humble imitation of their masters. Yet there is a sort of unhired fidelity, an ourishness, about all this that makes it rest pleasant on one's feelings. All the first scene, down to the conclusion of the Prince's speech, is a motley dance of all ranks and ages to one tune, as if the horn of Huon had been playing behind the scenes. “ Benvolio's speech

*** Madam, an hour before the worshipp'd sun

Peer'd forth the golden window of the east'and, far more strikingly, the following speech of old Montague

“ Many a morning hath he there been seen

With tears augmenting the fresh morning dew'prove that Shakspeare meant the Romeo and Juliet to approach to a poem, which, and indeed its early date, may be also inferred from the multitude of rhyming couplets throughout. And if we are right, from the internal evidence, in pronouncing this one of Shakspeare's early dramas, it affords a strong instance of the fineness of his insight into the nature of the passions, that Romeo is introduced already love-bewildered. The necessity of loving creates an object for itself in man and woman; and yet there is a difference in this respect between the sexes, though only to be known by a perception of it. It would have displeased us if Juliet had been represented as already in love, or as fancying herself 80 ;-but no one, I believe, ever experiences any shock at Romeo's forgetting his Rosaline, who had been a mere name for the yearning of his youthful imagination, and rushing into his passion for Joliet. Rosaline was a mere creation of his fancy; and we should remark the boastful positiveness of Romeo in a love of his own making, which is never shown where love is really near the heart.

** • When the devout religion of mine eye

Maintains such falsehood, then turn tears to fires !
One fairer than my love! the all-seeing sun

Ne'er saw her maich, since first the world begun.' “The character of the Nurse is the nearest of anything in Shakspeare to a direct borrowing from mere observation; and the reason is, that as in infancy and childhood the individual in nature is a representative of a class, just as in describing one larch tree, you generalize a grove of them,-so it is nearly as much so in old age. The generalization is done to the poet's hand. Here you have the garrulity of age strengthened by the feelings of a long-trusted servant, whose sympathy with the mother's affections gives her privileges and rank in the household; and observe the mode of connection by accidents of time and place, and the child-like fondness of repetition in a second childhood, and also that happy, humble, ducking under, yet constant resurgence against, the check of her superiors

"• Yes, madam!-Yet I cannot choose but laugh,' &c. “In the fourth scene we have Mercutio introduced to us. O! how shall I describe that exquisite ebullience and overflow of youthful life, wafted on over the laughing waves of pleasure and prosperity, as a wanton beauty that distorts the face on which she knows her lover is gazing enraptured, and wrinkles her forehead in the triumph of its smoothness! Wit ever wakeful, fancy busy and procreative as an insect, courage, an easy mind that, without cares of its own, is at once disposed to laugh away those of others, and yet to be interested in them,--these and all congenial qualities, melting into the common copula of them all, the man of rank and the gentleman, with all its excellencies and all its weaknesses, constitute the character of Mercutio !” —COLERIDGE.

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d Let the world slide :] An old proverbial saying :

-will you go drink,

And let the world slide, Uncle !" BEAUMONT and FLETCHER'S Wit Without Money, Act V. Sc. 2.

o Go by, S. Jeronimy-] Mason suggested that the troublesome S was only the beginning of says, which the printers omitted to complete. This is not unlikely; or it may have been repeated inadvertently from the initial of Sly's name. The Go by, Jeronimy, is plainly an allusion to the old play called “The Spanish Tragedy," and the line,

“Not I:-Hieronimo, beware! go by, go by." ? Go to thy cold bed, and warm thee.] Edgar, in “King Lear," uses the same expression, “Humph: go to thy cold bed and warm thee."

Act III, Sc. 1.

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