Abbildungen der Seite


As when a Tree's cut down, the secret Root
Lives under ground, and thence new branches shoot:
So, from old Shakespear's honour'd dust, this day
Springs up and buds a new reviving Play.
Shakespear, who (taught by none) did first impart
To Fletcher Wit, to labouring Johnson Art.
He, Monarch-like, gave those his Subjects Law,
And is that Nature which they paint and draw.
Fletcher reach'd that which on his heights did grow,
Whilst Johnson crept and gather'd all below.
This did his Love, and this his Mirth digest:
One imitates him most, the other best.

If they have since out-writ all other Men,
"T is with the drops which fell from Shakespear's pen
The Storm which vanish'd on the neighb'ring shore,
Was taught by Shakespear's Tempest first to roar.
That Innocence and Beauty which did smile
In Fletcher, grew on this Enchanted Isle.

But Shakespear's Magick could not copy'd be,
Within that Circle none durst walk but he.
I must confess 't was bold, nor would you now
That liberty to vulgar Wits allow,
Which work by Magick supernatural things:
But Shakespear's Pow'r is Sacred as a King's.
Those Legends from old Priesthood were receiv'd,
And he then writ, as People then believ'd.
But, if for Shakespear we your grace implore,
We for our Theatre shall want it more:

Who by our dearth of Youths are forc'd t'employ
One of our Women to present a Boy.
And that's a transformation, you will say,
Exceeding all the Magick in the Play.



Many critics of The Tempest have endeavored to interpret it allegorically. Thus Lowell identifies Prospero with the Imagination, Ariel with the Fancy, Caliban with the Brute Understanding, Miranda with Abstract Womanhood, and Ferdinand with Youth. Emile Montégut and Dowden (the former in all seriousness, the latter in a playful exercise of fancy) have traced in the play an allegory of the poet's dramatic career (See the Révue des Deux Mondes, 1865, and Dowden's Shakspere, His Mind and Art, pp. 425-427). Less well known is Mrs. F. A. Kemble's interpretation, contained in a MS. note in a copy of Hanmer's edition, and printed by Furness.

"The Tempest is my favourite of Shakespeare's dramas. Chiefly I delight in this play, because of the image it presents to my mind of the glorious supremacy of the righteous human soul over all things by which it is surrounded. Prospero is to me the representative of wise and virtuous manhood in its true relation to the combined elements of existence, the physical powers of the external world, and the varieties of character with which it comes into voluntary, accidental, or enforced contact. Of the wonderful chain of being, of which Caliban is the densest and Ariel the most ethereal extreme, Prospero is the middle link. He the wise and good man is the ruling power, to whom the whole series is subject. First, and lowest in the scale, comes the gross and uncouth but powerful savage, who represents both the more ponderous and unwieldy natural elements (as the earth and water), which the wise magician by his knowledge compels to his service; and the brutal and animal propensities of the nature of man which he, the type of its noblest development, holds in lordly subjugation. — Next follow the drunken, ribald, foolish retainers of the king of Naples, whose ignorance, knavery, and stupidity represent the coarser attributes of those great, unenlightened masses which, in all communities, threaten authority by their conjunction with brute force and savage ferocity; and only under the wholesome restraint of a

[ocr errors]

wise discipline can be gradually admonished into the salutary subserviency necessary for their civilization. —. Ascending by degrees in the scale, the next group is that of the cunning, cruel, selfish, treacherous worldlings, - Princes and Potentates, the peers, in outward circumstances of high birth and breeding, of the noble Prospero, whose villainous policy (not unaided by his own dereliction of his duties as a governor in the pursuit of his pleasure as a philosopher) triumphs over his fortune, and, through a devilish ability and craft, for a time gets the better of truth and virtue in his person. From these, who represent the baser intellectual, as the former do the baser sensual, properties of humanity, we approach by a most harmonious, moral transition, through the agency of the skilfully interposed figure of the kindly gentleman, Gonzalo, those charming types of youth and love, Ferdinand and Miranda. - The fervent, chivalrous devotion of the youth, and the yielding simplicity and sweetness of the girl, are lovely representations of those natural emotions of tender sentiments and passionate desire which, watched and guided and guarded by the affectionate solicitude and paternal prudence of Prospero, are pruned of their lavish luxuriance, and supported in their violent weakness by the wise will that teaches forbearance and self-control as the only price at which these exquisite flowers of existence may unfold their blossoms in prosperous beauty and bear their rightful harvest of happiness as well as pleasure. Next in this wonderful gamut of being, governed by the sovereign soul of Prospero, come the shining figures of the Masque, — beautiful bright apparitions, fitly indicating the air, the fire, and all the more smiling aspects and subtler forces of nature. These minister with prompt obedience to the magical behests of science, and, when not toiling in appointed service for their great task-master, recreate and refresh his senses and his spirit with the ever-varying pageant of this beautiful Universe. — Last — highest of all — crowning with a fitful flame of lambent brightness this poetical pyramid of existence, flickers and flashes the beautiful Demon, without whose exquisite companionship we never think of the royal magician with his grave countenance of command. Ariel seems to me to represent the keenest perceiving intellect, separate from all moral consciousness and sense of responsibility. His power and knowledge are in some respects greater than those of his master, he can do what Prospero cannot, he lashes up the tempest round the island, — he saves the king and his companions from shipwreck, - he defeats the conspiracy of Sebastian and Antonio, and discovers the clumsy plot of the beast Caliban, — he wields immediate influence over

[ocr errors]

[ocr errors]

[ocr errors]

the elements, and comprehends alike without indignation or sympathy, which are moral results, the sin and suffering of humanity. Therefore, — because he is only a spirit of knowledge, he is subject to the spirit of love, - and the wild, subtle, keen, beautiful, powerful creature is compelled to serve with mutinous way. wardness and unwilling subjection the human soul that pitied and rescued it from its harsher slavery to sin, - and which, though controlling it with a wise severity to the fulfilment of its duties, yearns after it with the tearful eyes of tender human love when its wild wings flash away into its newly recovered realm of lawless liberty."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]




The governing element of verse structure in English is different from that in Latin and Greek. In the classical languages quantity forms the basis of the prosody; in English its place is taken by stress. In O. E. poetry stress and alliteration had been the regulating factors; afterwards, as a general rule, alliteration disappeared, except as an ornament, and syllabic equality was substituted, accompanied during the M. E. period by rhyme. The Earl of Surrey, in his translation of part of the Eneid, abandoned rhyme and introduced blank verse, a sequence of five stressed and five unstressed syllables in rising rhythm (i.e. with the stress on the second syllable) without rhyme. This became the normal metrical form of the Elizabethan drama, e.g.

For this', be sure', | to-night' | thou shalt' | have cramps' (i. 2. 325).

But a succession of such lines, as is proved by early plays like Gorboduc, has a most monotonous effect, and the beauty of Elizabethan verse is largely due to its variations from this primary type. As Shakespeare's command over his instrument increased, he more and more indulged in such variations, so that in The Tempest, one of his very last plays, there are comparatively few verses in the purely normal form.


Among the variations there are several which recur regularly, and which are not to be regarded as departures from a type, but as new types.

(a) Stress variation. The classification of syllables into stressed and unstressed is not exhaustive, for there are many shades of gradation between the unstressed and the strongly stressed. Thus a weak or intermediate stress may be substituted for the normal

« ZurückWeiter »