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lous creation to resort to amongst his own divinities, characters ready defined, and an audience whose superstition was prepared for every thing he could offer; he had, therefore, a firmer and broader stage (if I may be allowed the expression) under his feet than Shakspeare had. His fables in general are Homeric, and yet it does not follow that we can pronounce for Shakspeare that he is more original in his plots, for I understand that late researches have traced him in all, or nearly all. Both poets added so much machinery and invention of their own in the conduct of their fables, that whatever might have been the source, still their streams had little or no taste of the spring they flowed from. In point of character we have better grounds to decide, and yet it is but justice to observe that it is not fair to bring a mangled poet in comparison with one who is entire. In his divine personages Æschylus has the field of heaven, and indeed of hell also, to himself; in his heroic and military characters he has never been excelled; he had too good a model within his own bosom to fail of making those delineations natural. In his imaginary beings also he will be found a respectable, though not an equal, rival of our poet; but in the variety of character, in all the nicer touches of nature, in all the extravagances of caprice and humour, from the boldest feature down to the minutest foible, Shakspeare stands alone: sạch persons as he delineates never came into the contemplation of Æschylus as a poet; his tragedy has no dealing with them; the simplicity of the Greek fable, and the great portion of the drama filled up by the chorus, allow of little variety of character ; and the most which can be said of Æschylus in this particular is, that he never offends against nature or propriety, whether his cast is in the terrible or pathetic, the elevated or the simple. His versification with the intermixture of lyric composition is more various than that of Shakspeare; both are lofty and sublime in the extreme, abundantly metaphorical and sometimes extravagant :
Nubes et inania captat.
This may be said of each poet in his turn; in each the critic, if he is in search for defects, will readily enough discover
In scenam missus magno cum pondere versus.
Both were subject to be hurried on by an uncontrollable impulse, nor could nature alone suffice for either. Æschylus had an apt creation of imaginary beings at command. He could call spirits from the vasty deep, and they would come.—Shakspeare having no such creation in resource, boldly made one of his own; if Æschylus therefore was invincible, he owed it to his armour, and that, like the armour of Æneas, was the work of the gods; but the unassisted in
vention of Shakspeare seized all and more than superstition supplied to Æschylus.
Observer, vol. ii. p. 225. and p. 231 to p. 235.
Tue Treilus and Oressida of Shakspeare has for: its main foundation the poem of Chaucer. The Troilus and Creseide of the elder bard seems long to have been regarded by our ancestors in a manner somewhat similar to that in which the Æneid was viewed among the Romans, or the Iliad by the ancient Greeks. Every reader who advanced any pretensions to poetical taste, felt himself obliged to speak of it as the great classical regular English poem, which reflected the highest lustre upon our language." Shakspeare therefore, as a man, felt it but 'a just compliment to the merits of the great father of our poetry, to introduce his characters in a tangible form, and with all the advantages and allurements he could bestow upon them before the , eyes of his countrymen ; and as a constructor of dramas, accustomed to consult their tastes and partialities, he conceived that he could not adopt a more promising plan than to entertain them with a tale already familiar to their minds, which had been the associate and delight of their early years, which every man had himself praised, and had heard applauded by all the tasteful and the wise.'
We are not, however, left to probability and con
jecture as to the use made by Shakspeare of the poem
of Chaucer. His other sources were Chapman's translation of Homer, the Troy Book of Lydgate, and Caxton's History of the destruction of Troy. It is well known that there is no trace of the particular story of Troilus and Creseide among
the ancients. It occurs indeed in Lydgate and Caxton ; but the name and actions of Pandarus, a very essential personage in the tale as related by Shakspeare and Chaucer, are entirely wanting, except a single mention of him by Lydgate, and that with an express reference to Chaucer as his authority.
Shakspeare has taken the story of Chaucer with all its imperfections and defects, and has copied the series of its incidents with his customary fidelity; an exactness seldom to be found in any other dramatic writer.
Since then two of the greatest writers this island has produced have treated the same story, each in his own peculiar manner, it may be neither unentertaining nor uninstructive to consider the merit of their respective modes of composition as illustrated in the present example. Chaucer's poem includes many beauties, many genuine touches of nature, and many strokes of an exquisite pathos. It is on the whole, however, written in that style which has unfortunately been so long imposed upon the world as dignified, classical, and chaste. It is naked of incidents, of ornament, of whatever should most awaken the imagination, astound the fancy, or hurry away the soul. It has the stately