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of chivalrous deference, they would resent | Naples is still Il Regno, and the exiled very much indeed finding that she elected Bourbon a Bonnie Prince Charlie who may to monopolize all their conversation, and yet re-establish a pleasure-loving, inde looked severe if stray glances from the pendent court on the shores of the Blue young lady's heavily fringed dark eyes Bay, and scatter confusion in the ranks were demurely turned in any direction but of the Sardinian stranger who in some that of the black and white tiles which inexplicable way has imposed his rule form a Neapolitan floor. Moreover, un- upon her. less the islander chances to be a diplomatist, it is hardly within the bounds of possibility that he should understand any language but his own, and his Neapolitan charmer probably finds it difficult in the earlier stages of her acquaintance to "make English" with sufficient facility to keep him with her for long-in a crowd, that is.
From The Nineteenth Century. MILTON'S MACBETH.
confidence, or a reckless audacity; "for what can the man do that cometh after the king?" But the evidence of its entertainment is decisive; and I wish now to consider what motives could have induced Milton to think of such a thing.
IT is one of the most curious facts in literary history that Milton at one time proposed to write a drama on the story of An Italian male, on the contrary, is fre- "Macbeth"- that more than thirty years quently found to be the possessor of an after Shakespeare's great tragedy had been English or an American wife. Transat- before the world, Milton proposed to take lantic women have a remarkable power of up the theme already treated with such fitting themselves deftly into any hole, incomparable power. Such a design seems round or square, where fortune or inclina- at first sight to imply a strange want of tion may have chanced to cast them. discernment, or an extraordinary selfThat is not often the case with English maidens, and it must be frankly confessed these mixed marriages, especially in the south of the peninsula, are usually failures. The principal reasons for this are obvious, and it would be both unfair and unnecessary to recapitulate them. The following brief statements may serve to prove how entirely the usual occupations of an English lady are blotted out if she marry an Italian. No one here looks after her own household, and any attempt to do so would be foredoomed. There is no countryhouse life as with us, and no rector's wife to whom to lend kindly aid in looking after the tenants or the poor. The daughters are educated in some distant convent, and the sons probably at the Jesuits' College. All marry early, so their mother enjoys little intercourse with them. The husband could hardly by the most remote possibility be induced to look on domestic life, as we understand it, as either comprehensible or desirable. A woman who reads would be shunned as a bore, and one who did not care to sit for half the day with a cigarette between her lips would be considered a terrible damper and very rightly so, perhaps, by those who did incline so to sit. Finally politics, a resource of many who are ambitious, or who soar above dress and dance, are a closed subject. The "Makers of Italy" are hardly even names to the wife of the nobleman south of the Tiber. The glories of the ancient empire, the triumphs of medieval art, the brilliant page which records the successes of to-day, are nothing to her.
The evidence that he did think of it is to be found in a well-known MS. in his own handwriting, now one of the treasures of the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. This MS. was in all probability written shortly after his return from his Continental tour, when at last he was leav ing his father's roof and beginning an independent life. Till the year 1639, at the close of which he became thirty-one, Milton had been permitted by a highly appreciative and generous father to devote himself to learning and culture, that so he might prepare himself for some great poetical effort. Everything had been done for his education that could be done. Not content with the training and the lore imparted by St. Paul's School and by Cambridge, he, with his father's sanction and approval, had continued his studies at home for some six years; and then in 1638 had enjoyed the advantage of a foreign tour, which lasted some ten or twelve months, and acquainted him not only with famous towns and scenes, but also with some of the most distinguished Europeans of his day. Thus, over thirty years of perpetual and thorough preparation had gone by; and at last the time seemed come when the fruit of his long, "wearisome labors and studious watchings" should be put forth. Milton himself clearly felt it
was so. He had not been quite at ease To turn to the first of these points: that the promise of his youth was so there is abundant proof that Milton's dratardy of fulfilment. He speaks in one of matic sympathies were all in the direction his letters the only extant one in En- of the classical form. Late in life, in the glish of being "something suspicious prefatory note to "Samson Agonistes of myself," and of taking notice of "a (published in 1671), he issued, as everycertain belatedness in me;" and in an- body will remember, what we may call a other to his friend Diodati (Damon), he manifesto on this question, so far at least remarks, "it is well known, and you well as tragedy was concerned. After several know, that I am naturally slow in writing remarks by no means friendly to the conand averse to write." Certainly, when he temporary stage, he names Eschylus, settled down in lodgings of his own (just Sophocles, and Euripides as "the three off Fleet Street, on part of the site of the tragic poets unequalled yet by any, and Punch office of our time), or, a few months the best rule to all who endeavor to write later, wanting more room for his books, in tragedy. The circumscription of time," a garden-house" in Aldersgate Street he adds, "wherein the whole drama begins (on the east side, not far from Maidenhead and ends, is, according to ancient rule Court), he recognized that something must and best example, within the space of really be done; and we find him searching twenty-four hours." And in the work itfor a satisfactory subject. As late as 1639 self that is thus prefaced, he gives us in his thoughts were set upon King Arthur, fact a Greek play in English, a splendid as can be proved from two of his Latin and a still unsurpassed or unequalled monpoems written in that year, viz., the "Epi- ument of Hellenic scholarship and insight. taphium Damonis" and the Mansus." But it would be a mistake to suppose that But for certain reasons, the chief probably these convictions, so trenchantly enounced that he had realized the fabulousness of and so nobly illustrated, belonged only to the Arthurian story ("Who Arthur was,' Milton's senescence, or can be explained he writes in his "History of Britain," by his disgust with the theatre of the "and whether ever any such reigned in Restoration. Years and years before MilBritain, hath been doubted before, and ton had made up his mind on this matter. may again with good reason"), he some- In the subject-list, drawn up as we have what suddenly as it would seem dismissed seen when he began seriously and practhat hero, and looked round for a substi- tically to address himself to what he tute. In the above-mentioned Trinity meant to be the achievement of his life, College MS., most probably penned just the dramatic form is the prevailing form at this period, he makes a long list -a nay, the only form-entertained by hundred minus one-of subjects that him; and it is the classical (i.e., the Greek) might serve his purpose. Of these, fifty-dramatic form. In several cases he spethree are taken from the Old Testament, cially mentions the chorus, and of whom and among them "Paradise Lost" is un-it is to consist. In many others the very mistakably the favorite; eight are from titles sufficiently indicate the models that the New Testament; thirty-three are from are in his thoughts; thus Naboth σvкopavBritish history; and five are "Scotch Touμɛvos, Elisæus Hydrochoos, Hezechias stories, or rather British of the North | πоhoрρкоúμεvos, Josiah alagouevos, Herod MasParts;" and last of these, and so last of the whole ninety-nine is "Macbeth.' Beginning at the arrival of Malcolm at Macduff. The matter of Duncan may be expressed by the appearing of his ghost." Now I propose suggesting and discussing two special reasons for the insertion of "Macbeth" in this list the one historical, or having reference to the historical facts; the other didactic, or moral. But before I proceed to these, brief references must be made first to Milton's attitude to the romantic drama generally, and to Shakespeare in particular; and sec. ondly, to the state in which Shakespeare's "Macbeth" has come down to us, and the manner in which it was presented in the seventeenth century.
sacring or Rachel Weeping, Christus Patiens, Christ Risen, Vortiger immured, Hardiknute dying in his cups, Athelstan exposing his brother Edwin to the sea and repenting, etc. And from the note added to the Macbeth" entry it is certain that his intention was to treat the subject according to the usage of the Attic stage. Similarly, in one of the most magnificent of the many magnificent passages in his prose writing, in the famous account he renders of himself and his doings and his purposes in "The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty," when he refers to the form his poem may take, whether epic or dramatic, he does not acknowledge or admit under the latter head any other "constitutions "than
those "wherein Sophocles and Euripides | recognize the cardinal fact that Sophocles reign." He discovers the Greek "consti- and Shakespeare represent two quite septutions" even in Hebrew literature. He arate theatres, and that to speak of Shakeagrees with Origen that "the Scripture speare as a bad Sophocles is as absurd as also affords us a divine pastoral drama in it would be to speak of Sophocles as a bad the Song of Solomon, consisting of two Shakespeare. In the seventeenth century persons and a double chorus ;" and is of this great discovery for so it was, obviopinion, Paræus confirming him, that "the ous as what it states now seems to us — Apocalypse of St. John is the majestic had not yet been made; and we must not image of a high and stately tragedy shut- be surprised or contemptuous if Milton ting up and intermingling her solemn was not in advance of his age in this rescenes and acts with a sevenfold chorus of spect, and so did not understand the exact hallelujahs and harping sympathies." Be- relation of the Elizabethan playwrights to yond question it was the Greek drama the Periclean. Brilliant classical scholar that was meet and right in his eyes; and as he was, and the classics at that time the modern drama seemed a somewhat having such an ascendency, it is no wondubious growth or creature, with which as der if he was by no means contented with an author he meant to have little to do, the popular drama of his time. however he might peruse it as a reader. For that in his younger days at least he read his Shakespeare with immense appreciation and delight, is vividly shown not only by those famous memorial lines beginning"What needs my Shakespeare for his honored bones?"-happily, the first lines of Milton's composing that appeared in print - but by a much more significant sign in the shape of numberless allusions and echoes to be observed in his earlier poems-in "L'Allegro," and "Il Penseroso," and "Comus." It is wonder-ough agreement with it, that "Macbeth," ful how well Milton knew his " Midsummer Night's Dream," his "Romeo and Juliet," his "Tempest." Often, no doubt, he had seen these plays and others from the same source acted in the Blackfriars Theatre the Globe.
Then to the well-trod stage anon,
Excipit hinc fessum sinuosi pompa theatri,
We must also remember, before we note the two particular reasons that probably led Milton to think of treating, in the classical style, the Macbeth story of all the Shakespearian tragedies, that the play of "Macbeth seems to have been strangely handled even in its author's lifetime, or, at all events, just after his death. This question cannot here be discussed at length. I can only call attention to the view taken by many competent scholars, and venture to express my thor
as it appears in the first folio, 1623, is not exactly what Shakespeare wrote, but a revised version of what Shakespeare wrote. There are many difficulties about the presorent shape of this tragedy, as all students and possibly some general readers know; and they are probably best accounted for by the hypothesis that the play, as we have it, has been freely edited and modified by somebody, Middleton, very likely, tiplied the dances-operatized it, in short, who augmented the lyrical parts and mulif I may invent such a verb for the occa sion. We may marvel that the right hand that did such a deed did not wither; we may be pleased to fancy that its owner afterwards repented, and, like Cranmer, denounced such an unworthy member. But none the less the deed seems to have been done, and this tremendous tragedy was mixed with baser matter. A further evolution of this curious process is to be seen in Davenant's " Macbeth," the current form in the Restoration period, printed in 1674 (the year in which Milton died). "From hence" (my Lord Crewe's), writes Mr. Pepys in December, 1666, "to the Duke's house, and there saw Macbeth' most excellently acted, and a most excellent play for variety;" and in the follow. ing month, still more significantly, he
So he writes in his first "Elegy," when he describes his London life during a certain absence from Cambridge. But probably from the very beginning, genuinely and heartily as he appreciated the genius of Shakespeare, in theory he was attached rather to Ben Jonson and his school; and there may be detected in his tone an anticipatory concord with the kind of dramatic criticism which prevailed in Europe till the rising of Lessing, that is, with the habit of crying up Shakespeare's genius, and crying down his art-with the habit of estimating the modern drama by the canons and standard of the classical, instead of recognizing it as a new and distinct embodiment of the dramatic spirit. It was Lessing who first led the world to VOL. LXXVII. 3976
notes: "To the Duke's house, and saw Macbeth,' which, though I saw it lately, yet appears a most excellent play in all respects, but especially in divertisement, though it be a deep tragedy; which is a strange perfection in a tragedy, it being most proper here and suitable;" in which sagacious comment many a modern critic would insert just the opposite adjectives. "The Weird Sisters," says Lamb, in a passage well known but deserving to be known yet better, "are serious things. Their presence cannot co-exist with mirth." Yet, to the audience of Charles the Second's reign, they had become comic figures, and were greeted with roars of laughter. Conceive the "Eumenides " of Eschylus presented in like fashion. Conceive Alecto and her sisterhood as she buffoons, or Pluto entering with the grimaces and the somersaults of a clown! This vulgarizing of "Macbeth," of which the beginnings are discernible, as we have pointed out, in the earlier half of the century, may surely be pleaded in mitigation of Milton's offence when he dared to meditate a fresh dramatic rendering of a story already set forth by Shakespeare.
Let us now consider those two special reasons that have been suggested above as probably influencing Milton in this matter. The first has relation to the treatment of historical facts by Shakespeare in "Macbeth" to the freedom and license with which they were rearranged and altered. Milton's objection to Shakespeare's "Macbeth"on this score is think suggested and proved by another entry in his subject-list, which has, I believe, never yet been noticed in this connection, viz., "Duff and Donewald: A strange story of witchcraft and murder discovered and revenged."
Non tamen inritum, Quodcunque retrost, efficiet, neque Diffinget infectumque reddet,
Quod fugiens semel hora vexit. And, indeed, if they are verily "creators," how, they ask, is their creative power to be limited and fixed? And they quote, or might quote, for their charter Horace's trite dictum : Pictoribus atque poetis Quidlibet audendi semper fuit æqua potestas. And accordingly quidlibet audent. On the other hand, Aristotle insists "that it is not the province of a poet to relate things which have happened, but such as might have happened, and such things as are possible according to probability, or would necessarily have happened. For an historian and a poet do not differ from each other because the one writes in verse and the other in prose; for the history of Herodotus might be written in verse, and yet it would be no less a history with metre than without metre. But they differ in this, that the one speaks of things which have happened, and the other of such as might have happened. Hence poetry is more philosophic and more deserving of attention than history." However, the service which writers of imagination Shakespeare and Scott, above all others - have done in exciting a real interest in distant ages-in making the dry bones live and "provoking the silent dust"—is so great and grand that we accept their works with grateful thanks, and think it a comparatively little thing that they are not always found in exact agreement with the contemporary records which the researches of the learned from time to time bring to light. Now what were Milton's views on this question? He seems to have held that the poet, if he dealt with historical fact, should faithfully adhere to it; and, what is more, he seems to have held that the poet should deal with historical fact.
The principles on which the historical drama and the historical novel should be constructed are by no means easy to define. Certainly the historian has often resented, and often resents, the "It was necessary for Milton," as that intrusion of the fictionist on his domain. excellent critic and writer Mr. Mark PatAnd undoubtedly many popular errors tison observes, "that the events and perare due to the gross inaccuracies or the sonages which were to arouse and detain daring interferences with historical fact his interests should be real events and that are to be found in most plays and personages. The mere play of fancy with novels that profess to deal with history. the pretty aspect of things could not satSome writers do not shrink from rewrit-isfy him; he wanted to feel beneath him ing what has already been written forever a substantial world of reality. . . . His by the finger of time. The past is not the past with them, but a flexible and manageable present. They arrogate a power beyond that of Jupiter himself, who, however he may cloud or sun the skies to-morrow,
imagination is only stirred by real circumstances." Perhaps we may relevantly refer to Carlyle's insistence on the impressiveness of "the smallest historical fact ""as contrasted with the grandest fictitious event."
All those ninety-nine subjects that, as we know, Milton was revolving in his mind when he was earnestly meditating a great poetical work, are historical. All those stories that attracted him in the Old Testament and in the New seemed to him, whatever conclusions or views about them modern criticism may arrive at or enter tain, to be strictly historical, not Hebrew or Christian legends. In the "Reason for Church Government " he tells us how he considered what king or knight before the Conquest might be chosen, in whom to lay the pattern of a Christian hero." As Tasso had chosen an historical person for his hero, finally adopting Godfrey of Boulogne after some hesitation whether it should be he or Belisarius or Charlemagne, so would Milton select one of our "ancient stories," i.e., one of our ancient histories, for the word "story" is etymologically but a decapitated form of the word "history," and in Elizabethan and even later English it is often used in its original sense. As already remarked, he rejected King Arthur because he found, after careful scrutiny, that he was not historical that he was mainly, if not wholly, a mere mythical figment. Finally he selected a Biblical subject, having in the Biblical narrative, as he read it, the terra firma his genius desired. For he accepted the Biblical narrative verbatim et literatim; in his eyes it not only contained the word of God; it was the word of God. And so, whenever he could, he followed closely the very diction of the Bible; and undoubtedly the comparative inferiority of many parts of "Paradise Lost," considered as a poem, is due to this very method. It is as if he deliberately restrained the free movement of his wings. In a certain sense, and to a certain degree, he ceases to be a "poet soaring in the high region of his fancies, with his garland and sing. ing robes about him;" he produces and translates and does not create. Invention
came to be regarded as of secondary importance. This view of the poet's function grew more and more upon him, and does much to explain the austerity and baldness of his latest style. And indeed, strange as the statement may at first appear, it leads us on to the immediately subsequent periods of our literature, in which poetry became a kind of decorative art-in which formal themes that belonged rather to the province of prose are taken up by the reigning poets, and argued and discussed in metre. The seeds of the school of Dryden and Pope were sown in the middle
of the seventeenth century. It is by no mere accident that Pope in the opening of his " Essay on Man" almost exactly repeats certain words in the opening of Paradise Lost." In Milton's time the tide of the imagination that reached such a height in the Elizabethan age had not yet completely ebbed; in Pope's time it was gone far down, and often we find ourselves in a sandy tract of metrical essays and treatises, and scarcely "hear the mighty waters rolling evermore."
Pope sneers, perhaps not unjustly — if sneering is ever just at Milton for turning "God the Father" into a "School divine;" but it is not less true of Pope and his age that the poet is often transformed into the professor, and when we are listening for a song, we have a lecture inflicted upon us; we look for a vision of Apollo, and behold a doctor of theology, or some graduate in metaphysics or in science. I say the movement in this prosaic direction is perceptible in Milton's age, and in Milton's theory at least, and in his practice, so far as he obeyed his theory. The most splendid passages of "Paradise Lost" are, in fact, just those where Milton is delivered from his theory - when he has no such facts to go upon as so often make him "pedestrian." In the first two books of his great epic, Milton has to rely only on his imagination; there is no restricting narrative to "damp" his "intended wing depressed;" and the result is one of the finest and noblest achievements of the poetical spirit.
And so happily in art, as in the moral world, men are often better than their theories; they do not live down to their creeds. Often, no doubt, it is true that "the better is seen and the worse is followed;" but, if we may vary Ovid's familiar words, it is also often true
Video pejora proboque,
Nature is stronger than the rules and canons that are formulated for her guidance. The artistic instinct prevails over all the utterances of a self-conscious and a perverse analysis.
But, however this may be, and to whatever degree Milton's greatness and his theories are in harmony, it is certain Milton had a profound respect for historic fact, and was by no means willing to give poetry a charter to ignore or to reconstruct it. The poet might or might not adopt it as his material, and for his part he inclined to adopt it; but assuredly, if the poet did