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SHAKESPEARE

-POETICAL POLITICS.

79

Cæsar. Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep a-nights :
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look,
He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.

Antony. Fear him not, Cæsar, he's not dangerous :
He is a noble Roman, and well given.

Cæsar. Would he were fatter! But I fear him not:
Yet if my name were liable to fear,
I do not know the man I should avoid
So soon as that spare Cassius. He reads much ;
He is a great observer; and he looks
Quite through the deeds of men. He loves no plays,
As thou dost, Antony; he hears no music :
Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort,
As if he mock'd himself, and scorn'd his spirit,
That could be mov'd to smile at any thing.
Such men as he be never at heart's ease
Whilst they behold a greater than themselves;
And therefore are they very dangerous.
I rather tell thee what is to be fear'd
Than what I fear; for always I am Cæsar.
Come on my right hand, for this ear is deaf,

And tell me truly what thou think’st of him." “ We know hardly any passage more expressive of the genius of Shakespeare than this.

It is as if he had been actually present, had known the different characters and what they thought of one another, and had taken down what he heard and saw, their looks, words, and gestures, just as they happened." - p. 36, 37.

We may add the following as a specimen of the moral and political reflections which this author has intermixed with his criticisms.

Shakespeare has in this play and elsewhere shown the same penetration into political character and the springs of public events as into those of every-day life. For instance, the whole design to liberate their country fails from the generous temper and overweening confidence of Brutus in the goodness of their cause and the assistance of others. Thus it has always been. Those who mean well themselves think well of others, and fall a prey to their security. The friends of liberty trust to the professions of others, because they are themselves sincere, and endeavour to secure the public good with the least possible hurt to its enemies, who have no regard to any thing but their own unprincipled ends, and stick at nothing to accomplish them. Cassius was better cut out for a conspirator. His heart prompted his head. His habitual jealousy made him fear the worst that might happen, and his irritability of temper added to his inveteracy of

purpose, and sharpened his patriotism. The mixed nature of his motives made him fitter to contend with bad men. The vices are never so well employed as in combating one another. Tyranny and servility

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HAZLITT'S SHAKESPEARE - CORIOLANUS.

are to be dealt with after their own fashion : otherwise, they will triumph over those who spare them, and finally pronounce their funeral pane. gyrie, as Antony did that of Brutus.

“ All the conspirators, save only he,

Did that they did in envy of great Cæsar:
He only in a general honest thought

Of common good to all, made one of them." — p. 38, 39. The same strain is resumed in his remarks on Coriolanus.

Shakespeare seems to have had a leaning to the arbitrary side of the question; perhaps from some feeling of contempt for his own origin; and to have spared no occasion of baiting the rabble. What he says of them is very true : what he says of their betters is also very true; But he dwells less upon it. The cause of the people is indeed but little calculated as a subject for poetry: it admits of rhetoric, which goes into argument and explanation, but it presents no immediate or distinct images to the mind. The imagination is an exaggerating and exclusive faculty. The understanding is a dividing and measuring faculty. The ape is an aristrocatical, the other a republican faculty. The principle of poetry is a very anti-levelling principle. It aims at effect, and exists by contrast. It is every thing by excess. It puts the individual for the species, the one above the infinite many, might before right. A lion hunting a flock of sheep is a more poetical object than they; and we even take part with the lordly beast, because our vanity or some other feeling makes us dissposed to place ourselves in the situation of the strongest party. There is nothing heroical in a multitude of miserable rogues not wishing to be starved, or complaining that they are likely to be so: but when a single man comes forward to brave their cries and to make them submit to the last indignities, from mere pride and self-will, our admiration of his prowess is immediately converted into contempt for their pusillanimity. We had rather, in short, be the oppressor than the oppressed. The love of power in ourselves and the admiration of it in others are both natural to man: But the one makes him a tyrant, the other a slave.”—p. 69 — 72.

There are many excellent remarks, and several fine quotations, in the discussions on Troilus and Cressida. As this is no longer an acted play, we venture to give one extract, with Mr. H.'s short observations, which perfectly express our opinion of its merits.

It cannot be said of Shakespeare, as was said of some one, that he was 'without o'erflowing full. He was full even to o'erflowing. He gave heaped measure, running over. This was his greatest fault. He was only in danger of losing distinction in his thoughts' (to borrow his own expression)

“ As doth a battle when they charge on heaps

The enemy flying "

TROILUS AND CRESSIDA

HIS REDUNDANCE.

81

* There is another passage, the speech of Ulysses to Achilles, showing him the thankless nature of popularity, which has a still greater depth of moral observation and richness of illustration than the former."

Ulysses. Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back,
Wherein he puts alms for Oblivion ;
A great-sized monster of ingratiindes;
Thuse scraps are good deeds past ;
Which are levoureid as fast as they are made,
Forgot as soon as done: Persev rance. dear my loril,
Kreps Honour bright: to hare done, is to hang
Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail
In inonumental mockery. Take the instant way;
For Honcur travels in a strait so narrow,
That one but goes abreast; keep then the patlı,
For Emulation liath a thousand sons,
That one by one pursue; if you give way,
Or hedge aside from the direct forth-right,
Like to an entered tide they all rush by,
And leave you hindmost;
Or, like a gallunt horse full’n in first rank,
O'er-run and trampled on: then what do they in present,
Tho' less than yours in past, must v crtop yours :
For Timo is like a fashionable host,
That slightly shakes his parting guest by th' hand,
And with his arins outstretch'd as he would fly,
Grasps in the comer: thus Welcoine ever smiles,
And Farewell goes ont sighing. O, let not virtue seek
Pemuneration for the thing it was; For beauty, wit,
High birth, vigour of bone, desert in service,
Love, friendship, charity, are subjects 2]]

To envious and culupuiting time:
One touch of nature make the wind when
That all, with one cousent, praise w-born gauds.

Though they are made and moulded of things past." “ The throng of images in the above lines is prodigious; and ilongh they sometim's jostle against one anciler, they everyulere raise and carry on the feeling, which is metaphysically true and profound." — p. 03-87.

This Chapter ends with an ingenious paralell between the genius of Chaucer and that of Shakespeare, which we have not room to insert.

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The following observations on Hamlet are very characteristic of Mr. H.'s manner of writing in the work now before us; in which he continually appears acute, desultory, and capricious — with great occasional felicity

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HAZLITT'S SHAKESPEARE

HAMLET.

of conception and expression - frequent rashness and carelessness - constant warmth of admiration for his author — and some fits of extravagance and folly, into which he seems to be hurried, either by the hasty kindling of his zeal as he proceeds, or by a selfwilled determination not to be balked or baffled in any thing he has taken it into his head he should say.

“Hamlet is a name: his speeches and sayings but the idle coinage of the poet's brain. But are they not real? They are as real as our own thoughts. Their reality is in the reader's mind. It is we who are Hamlet.

This play has a prophetic truth, which is above that of history. Whoever has become thoughtful and melancholy through his own mishaps or those of others: whoever has borne about with him the clouded brow of reflection, and thought himself 'too much i' th' sun;' whoever has seen the golden lamp of day dimmed by envious mists rising in his own breast, and could find in the world before him only a dull blank, with nothing left remarkable in it; whoever has known - the pangs of despised love, the insolence of office, or the spurns which patient merit of the unworthy takes;' he who has felt his mind sink within him, and sadness cling to his heart like a malady; who has had his hopes blighted and his youth staggered by the apparitions of strange things; who cannot be well at ease, while he sees evil hovering near him like a spectre : whose powers of action have been eaten up by thought; he to whom the universe seems infinite, and himself nothing; whose bitterness of soul makes him careless of consequences, and who goes to a play, as his best resource to shove off

, to a second remove, the evils of life, by a mock-representation of them This is the true Hamlet.

We have been so used to this tragedy, that we hardly know how to criticise it, any more than we should know how to describe our own faces. But we must make such observations as we can. It is the one of Shakespeare's plays that we think of oftenest because it abounds most in striking reflections on human life, and because the distresses of Hamlet are transferred, by the turn of his mind, to the general account of humanity. Whatever happens to him, we apply to ourselves; because he applies it so himself as a means of general reasoning. He is a great moralizer, and what makes him worth attending to is, that he moralizes on his own feelings and experience. He is not a common-place pedant. If Lear shows the greatest depth of passion, HAMLET is the most remarkable for the ingenuity, originality, and unstudied development of character. There is no attempt to force an interest : every thing is left for time and circumstances to unfold. The attention is excited without effort; the incidents succeed each other as matters of course: the characters think, and speak, and act, just as they might do if left entirely to themselves, There is no set purpose, no straining at a point. The observations are suggested by the passing scene the gusts of passion come and go like sounds of music borne on the wind. The whole play is an exact transcript of

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what might be supposed to have taken place at the court of Denmark, at the remote period of time fixed upon, before the modern refinements in morals and manners were heard of. It would have been interesting enough to have been admitted as a by-stander in such a scene, at such a time, to have heard and seen something of what was going on. But here we are more than spectators.

We have not only the outward pageants and the signs of grief,' but we have that within which passes show.' We read the thoughts of the heart, we catch the passions living as they rise, Other dramatic writers give us very fine versions and paraphrases of nature ; but Shakespeare, together with his own comment, gives us the original text, that we may judge for ourselves. This is a great advantage. ** The character of Hamlet is itself a pure effusion of genius.

It is not a character marked by strength of will, or even of passion, but by refinement of thought and sentiment. Hamlet is as little of the hero as a man can well be: but he is a young and princely novice, full of high enthusiasm and quick sensibility, --- the sport of circumstances, questioning with fortune, and refining on his own feelings; and forced from the natural bias of his disposition by the strangeness of his situation." - p. 104 — 107.

His account of the Tempest is all pleasingly written, especially his remarks on Caliban ; but we rather give our readers his speculations on Bottom and his associates.

" Bottom the Weaver is a character that has not had justice done him. He is the most romantic of mechanics : He follows a sedentary trade, and he is accordingly represented as conceited, serious, and fantastical. He is ready to undertake any thing and every thing, as if it was as much a matter of course as the motion of his loom and shuttle. He is for playing the tyrant, the lover, the lady, the lion. • He will roar that it shall do any man's heart good to hear him :' and this being objected to as improper, he still has a resource in his good opinion of himself, and · will roar you an 'twere any nightingale.' Snug the Joiner is the moral man of the piece, who proceeds by measurement and discretion in all things. You see him with his rule and compasses in his hand. Have you the lion's part written ? Pray you, if it be, give it me, for I am slow of study.' -— You may do it extempore,' says Quince, for it is nothing but roaring.' Starveling the Tailor keeps the peace, and objects to the lion and the drawn sword. • I believe we must leave the killing out when all's done.' Starveling, however, does not start the objections himself, but seconds them when made by others, as if he had not spirit to express his fears without encouragement. It is too much to suppose all this intentional :

very luckily falls out so."— p. 126, 127. Mr. H. admires Romeo and Juliet rather too much though his encomium on it is about the most eloquent part of his performance: But we really cannot sym

but it

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