« ElőzőTovább »
are entreated; when they do at last consent, they recall their promise ; it is a prey they want immediately, and Warwick, seizing him by force, “strake off his head in a trench.' Those are the men of the middleage. They have the fierceness, the rage, the pride of big, well-fed, thorough - bred bull - dogs. It is this sternness and impetuosity of primitive passions which produced the Wars of the Roses, and for thirty years drove the nobles on each other's swords and to the block.
What is there beyond all these frenzies and gluttings of blood ? The idea of crushing necessity and inevitable ruin in which everything sinks and comes to an end. Mortimer, brought to the block, says with a smile:
• Base Fortune, now I see, that in thy wheel
Goes to discover countries yet unknown.'' Weigh well these grand words; they are a cry from the heart, the profound confession of Marlowe, as also of Byron, and of the old sea-kings. The northern paganism is fully expressed in this heroic and mournful sigh; it is thus they imagine the world so long as they remain on the outside of Christianity, or as soon as they quit it. So also, when they see in life but a battle of unchecked passions, and in death but a gloomy sleep, perhaps filled with mournful dreams, there is no other supreme good but a day of joy and victory. They glut themselves, shutting their eyes to the issue, except that they may be swallowed up on the morrow. That is the master-thought of Doctor Faustus, the greatest of Marlowe's dramas; to satisfy his soul, no matter at what price, or with what results:
A sound magician is a mighty god. ...
1 Edward the Second, last scene, p. 288.
What brilliant dreams, what desires, what vast or voluptuous wishes, worthy of a Roman Cæsar or an eastern poet, eddy in this teeming brain! To satiate them, to obtain four-and-twenty years of power, Faustus gives his soul, without fear, without need of temptation, at the first outset, voluntarily, so sharp is the prick within:
“Had I as many souls as there be stars,
Why shouldst thou not? Is not thy soul thy own !!! And with that he gives himself full swing: he wants to know everything, to have everything; a book in which he can behold all herbs and trees which grow upon the earth ; another in which shall be drawn all the constellations and planets; another which shall bring him gold when he wills it, and the fairest courtezans ;' another which summons
men in armour' ready to execute his commands, and which holds • thunder, whirlwinds, thunder and lightning' chained at his disposal. He is like a child, he stretches out his hands for everything shining; then grieves to think of hell, then lets himself be diverted by shows:
* Faustus. O, this feeds my soul!
Faustus. Oh, might I see hell, and return again,
How happy were I then!'...? He is conducted, being invisible, over the whole world; lastly to Rome, amongst the ceremonies of the Pope's court. Like a schoolboy during a holiday, he has insatiable eyes, he forgets everything before a pageant, he amuses himself in playing tricks, in giving the Pope a hox on the ear, in beating the monks, in performing magic tricks before princes, finally in drinking, feasting, filling his belly, deadening his thoughts. In his transport he becomes an atheist, and says there is no hell, that those are old wives' tales.' Then suddenly the sad idea knocks at the gates of his brain :
"I will renounce this magic, and repent ...
I am resolv'd ; Faustus shall ne'er repent.-
To glut the longing of my heart's desire. ...
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars !!! "Ah, my God, I would weep! but the devil draws in my tears. Gush forth blood, instead of tears! yea, life and soul! Oh, he stays my tongue! I would lift up my hands; but see, they hold them, they hold them; Lucifer and Mephistophilis.' ...
And fall into the ocean, ne'er be found !'. There is the living, struggling, natural, personal man, not the philosophic type which Goethe has created, but a primitive and genuine man, hot-headed, fiery, the slave of his passions, the sport of his dreams, wholly engrossed in the present, moulded by his lusts, contradictions, and follies, who amidst noise and starts, cries of pleasure and anguish, rolls, knowing it and willing it, down the slope and crags of his precipice. The whole English drama is here, as a plant in its sced, and Marlowe is to Shakspeare what Perugino was to Raphael.
V. Insensibly art is being formed; and toward the close of the century it is complete. Shakspeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, Jonson, Webster, Massinger, Ford, Middleton, Heywood, appear together, or close upon each other, a new and favoured generation, flourishing largely in the soil fertilised by the efforts of the generation which preceded them. Thenceforth the scenes are developed and assume consistency; the characters cease to move by clockwork, the drama is no longer like a piece of statuary. The poet who just before knew only how to strike or kill, introduces now a sequence of situation and a rationale in intrigue. He begins to prepare the way for sentiments, to forewarn us of events, to combine effects, and we find a theatre at last, the most complete, the most life-like, and also the most strange that ever existed.
We must follow its formation, and regard the drama on the ground where it was formed, namely, in the mind of its authors. What was going on in these minds? What sorts of ideas were born there, and how were they born? In the first place, they see the event, whatever it be, and they see it as it is ; I mean that they have it within themselves, with its persons and details, beautiful and ugly, even dull and grotesque. If it is a trial, the judge is there, in their minds, in such a place, with his physiognomy and his warts; the pleader in such a place, with his spectacles and brief-bag; the accused is opposite, stooping and remorseful; each with his friends, cobblers, or lords ; then the buzzing crowd behind, all with their grinning faces, their astonished or kindling eyes. It is a genuine trial which they imagine, a trial like those they have seen before the justice, where they cried or shouted as witnesses or interested parties, with their quibbling terms, their pros and cons, the scribblings, the sharp voices of the counsel, the stamping of feet, the crowding, the smell of their fellow-men, and so forth. The endless myriads of circumstances which accompany and obscure every event, crowd round that event in their heads, and not merely the externals, that is, the sensible and picturesque traits, the particular colours and costumes, but also, and chiefly, the internals, that is, the motions of anger and joy, the secret tumult of the soul, the ebb and flow of ideas and passions which darken the face, swell the veins, and make the teeth grind, the fists clench, which urge or restrain a man. They see all the details, the tides that sway a man, one from without, another from within, one over another, one within another, both together without faltering and without ceasing. And what is this vision but sympathy, an imitative sympathy, which puts us in another's place, which carries over their agitations to our own breasts, which makes our life a little world, able to reproduce the great one in abstract ? Like the characters they imagine, poets and spectators
See the trial of Vittoria Corombona, of Virginia in Webster, of Coriolanus and Julius Cæsar i.. Shakspeare.
make gestures, raise their voices, act. No speech or story can show their inner mood, but it is the getting up of the play which can manifest it. As some men find language for their ideas, so these act and mimic them; theatrical and figured representation is their genuine speech : all other expression, the lyrical song of Æschylus, the reflective symbolism of Goethe, the oratorical development of Racine, would be impossible for them. Involuntarily, instantaneously, without forecast, they cut life into scenes, and carry it in pieces on the boards; this goes so far, that often a mere character becomes an actor, playing a part within a part; the scenic faculty is the natural form of their mind. Under the effort of this instinct, all the accessory parts of the drama come before the footlights and expand under our eyes. A battle has been fought; instead of relating it, they bring it before the public, trumpets and drums, mingling crowds, slaughtering combatants. A shipwreck happens; straightway the ship is before the spectator, with the sailors' oaths, the technical orders of the helmsman. Of all the details of human life, tavern-racket and statesmen's councils, scullion jests and court processions, domestic tenderness and pandering, -none is too small or too high : these things exist in life-let them exist on the stage, each in full, in the rough, atrocious, or absurd, just as it is, no matter how. Neither in Greece, nor Italy, nor Spain, nor France, has an art been seen which tried so boldly to express the soul, with the soul's most intimate relations—the truth, and the whole truth.
How did they succeed, and what is this new art which confounds all ordinary rules? It is an art for all that, since it is natural; a great art, since it embraces more things, and that more deeply than others do, like the art of Rembrandt and Rubens; but like theirs, it is a Teutonic art, and one whose every step is in contrast with these of classical art. What the Greeks and Romans, the originators of the latter, sought in everything, was propriety and order, monuments, statues and paintings, the theatre, eloquence and poetry: from Sophocles to Racine, they shaped all their work in the same mould, and attained beauty by the same method. In the infinite entanglement and complexity of things, they grasped a small number of simple ideas, which they embraced in a small number of simple representations, so that the vast confused vegetation of life is presented to the mind from that time forth, pruned and reduced, and perhaps easily embraced by a single glance. A square of walls with rows of similar columns; a symmetrical group of draped or undraped forms; a young upright man raising one arm; a wounded warrior who will not return to the camp, though they beseech him : this, in their noblest epoch, was their architecture, their painting, their sculpture, and their theatre. No poetry but a few sentiments slightly complex, always natural, not toned down, intelligible to
? Falstaff in Shakspeare ; the queen in London, by Greenc and Decker ; Rosalind in Shakspeare.
* In Webster's Duchess of Malf there is an admirable accouchement scene.