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Behold, then, the immortal charm which for two centuries has continued to augment the renown of Shakspeare! For a long time shut up in his own country, it is only within the last half century that he has become an object of emulation to foreigners; but under this point of view his influence has necessarily less of strength and brilliancy. Copied by system, or timidly corrected, he is of no value to imitators. When he is re-produced with an affectation of barbarous irregularity, when his confusion is laboriously imitated by that experimental literature of Germany, which by turns has attempted every species of composition, and tried sometimes even barbarity itself as its last resource, he has inspired productions too often cold and extravagant, where the tone of our age has given the lie to the simulated rudeness of the poet.
When, even under the hands of the energetic Ducis, he is reduced to our classical proportions, and fettered by the restrictions of our theatre, he loses, with the freedom of his movements, all that he possesses of the grand and the astonishing for the imagination. The gigantic characters which he invented have no space to move in. His terrible action, and his extensive developements of passion, are not capable of being included within the limits of our rules. He no longer exhibits his haughtiness, his audacity; he is Gulliver bound down with innumerable threads. No longer, then, wrap up this giant in swaddling-clothes ; leave him his daring gambols, his wild liberty. Mutilate not
this tree full of sap and vigour; cut not off its dark and thick branches, in order to square its naked trunk upon the uniform model of those in the gardens of Versailles.
It is to the English that Shakspeare belongs, and where he ought to remain. This poetry is not destined, like that of the Greeks, to present a model to every other people, of the most beautiful forms of imagination; it offers not that ideal beauty which the Greeks have carried into the productions of intellect, as well as into the arts of design. Shakspeare would seem fated then to enjoy a less universal fame; but the fortune and the genius of his countrymen have extended the sphere of his immortality. The English language is spoken in the peninsula of India, and throughout that half of the new world which ought to inherit from Europe at large. The numerous people of the United States have scarcely any other literature than the books of old England, and no other national theatre than the pieces of Shakspeare. They summon over sea, at an immense expense, some celebrated English actor to represent to the inhabitants of New-York those dramas of the old English poet which are calculated to act so powerfully on a free people ; there they excite even more applause and enthusiasm than in the theatres of London. The popular good sense of these men, so industrious and so occupied, seizes with ardour the profound thoughts, the sagacious maxims with which Shakspeare is filled; his gigantic images
please minds accustomed to the most magnificent spectacles of nature, and to the immensity of the forests and rivers of the New World. His rudeness and inequality, his strange familiarities, offend not a society which is formed of so many different elements, which knows neither an aristocracy nor a court, and which has rather the strength and arms of civilization than its elegance and polite
There, as on his native soil, Shakspeare is the most popular of all writers; he is the only poet, perhaps, whose verses occasionally blend themselves with the simple eloquence and grave discourses of the American Senate. It is, above all, through him that this people, so familiarised with the coarse enjoyments of society, appears to have become acquainted with the noble enjoyment of letters which it had hitherto neglected, and indeed knew little of; and when the genius of the arts shall awaken in these countries, endowed with an aspect so poetic, but where liberty seems as yet to have inspired little save commerce, industry, and the practical sciences of life, we may expect to see the authority of Shakspeare, and the enthusiasm of his example, rule over this rising republic of literature. Thus, this comedian of the
age of Elizabeth, this author esteemed so uneducated, who had himself never collected or revised his own works, rapidly composed, as they were, for obscure and rude theatres, will be the chief and model of a school of poetry which shall speak a language diffused over the most flourishing half of a new world.
This diffusion of the language and literature of England, and this picture of the present and future popularity of Shakspeare among the inhabitants of the United States, had been previously and somewhat similarly drawn both by Morgan and the translator of this essay; the latter, alluding to the eloquently prophetic description of the author of the Essay on Falstaff, remarks : “not twenty years had passed over the glowing predictions of Morgan, when the first transatlantic edition of Shakspeare appeared at Philadelphia; nor is it too much to believe that, ere another century elapse, the plains of Northern America, and even the unexplored wilds of Australasia, shall be as familiar with the fictions of our poet, as are now the vallies of his native Avon, or the statelier banks of the Thaines.
“ It is, indeed, a most delightful consideration for every lover and cultivator of our literature, and one which should excite, amongst our authors, an increased spirit of emulation, that the language in which they write is destined to be that of so large a portion of the New World; a field of glory to which the genius of Shakspeare will assuredly give an imperishable permanency; for the diffusion and durability of his fame are likely to meet with no limit save that which circumscribes the globe, and closes the existence of time."—Shakspeare and his Times, vol. ii. p. 555.
• Nouveaux Mélanges Historiques et Litteraires, Tome i. p. 215 ad p. 287. à Paris, 1827.
SHAKSPEARE COMPARED WITH HOMER.
The genius of Homer has been a topic of admiration to almost every generation of men since the period in which he wrote. But his characters will not bear the slightest comparison with the delineation of the same characters as they stand in the Troilus and Cressida of Shakspeare. This is a species of honour which ought by no means to be forgotten, when we are making the eulogium of our immortal bard a sort of illustration of his greatness, which cannot fail to place it in a very conspicuous light. The dispositions of men, perhaps, had not been sufficiently unfolded in the very early period of intellectual refinement when Homer wrote; the rays of humour had not been dissected by the glass, or rendered perdurable by the pencil, of the poet. Homer's characters are drawn with a laudable portion of variety and consistency; but his Achilles, his Ajax, and his Nestor, are, each of them, rather a species than an individual, and can boast more of the propriety of abstraction than of the vivacity of a moving scene of absolute life. The Achilles, the Ajax, and the various Grecian heroes of Shakspeare on the other hand, are absolute men, deficient in nothing which