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fluence which they undoubtedly exercised was partly negative, in so far as they tended to keep the artistic matter clear from excrescences and deformities of every kind, and as they contributed to the purification of the dramatic atmosphere from the miasmas of the ecclesiastical and political history of the day, and thereby assisted art in its struggles for independence; and partly also of a general nature, in that they awakened and promoted a sense of artistic form and construction, and of true dramatic development. On the other hand, it was fortunate that the effect of these essays was not greater and more extensive; that they appeared too early, and were too poor and meagre for the popular taste to rest satisfied with them. For it cannot be doubted for a moment that an indiscriminate and slavish imitation of the classical models has proved the ruin of the French, and greatly injured the Italian Theatre. The English poets troubled themselves little or nothing about the rules of Aristotle. Freshly and freely they followed their own path, whilst, consciously or sciously, they steadily adopted, refined, and elaborated those elements of art which they found living in the national mind itself, and at the same time, also, that sense of form which the study of the ancients had served to awaken. Their principal object was to excite and to rivet the popular mind; for this purpose it was necessary for them to sympathise closely with, but at the same time to rise somewhat above it, and above all to apply themselves to subjects at once interesting and intelligible to the people: to employ these elements with the greatest possible effect, and at the same time to satisfy more and more all the requisitions of art, was their unceasing endeavour. Such, in short, is the end of every development of art, and in the undisturbed pursuit of this object it invariably attains to its highest perfection. It was only in the course of such a natural progress that a Shakspeare could have arisen.

Unfortunately we have to regret the entire loss of the fifty-two dramas, of various kinds, (eighteen histories, twenty-one pieces from modern story and novels, seven comedies, and six morals, which, in twelve years from 1568-80, were brought out by the several companies of players in the service of the Queen or wealthy nobles for the entertainment of Elizabeth. In order, therefore, in some measure to indicate the character of the period before Shakspeare's arrival in London, (1586,) and particularly the form and substance of the national drama at that date, I shall select two pieces which, it is true, were in all likelihood written many years later, but which (as appears to me no less likely) were composed altogether in the spirit and taste of a period in which the steps of art were too feeble and tottering to advance with the mighty strides which the talents of a Greene, a Marlow, and a Shakspeare subsequently enabled it to take. I allude to the" Jeronimo," with its second part, “The Spanish Tragedy," and to “Grimm, the Collier of Croydon." The former, which dates about 1588, may be regarded as the model after which, before the appearance of Shakspeare and his older and more celebrated contemporaries, tragedy was usually composed to meet the popular taste; while in “Grimm, the Collier of Croydon,” we have, on the other hand, the model of comedy for the corresponding period. Although the author of the latter piece is unknown, and its date quite uncertain, yet to judge from exter-, nal evidence (Collier, iii. 26) it cannot have been much later than the “ Jeronimo,” and is perfectly available for my purpose.

Schlegel's criticism of the “ Jeronimo" is as excellent in itself as it is strikingly complete for our purpose.--"This piece is, in truth, replete with bad taste. The writer has ventured on the description of the most forcible situations and passions without any mistrust of his own powers, and the catastrophe especially, which in horror surpasses all conception, is so absurdly brought about as to produce a ridiculous rather than a mournful impression. The whole resembles a child's drawing, scrawled with an unsteady hand, and observing no proportion. With much bombast, however, the dialogue yet possesses a natural, not to say familiar, tone; and in the succession of scenes, a light movement is discernible, which, in some degree, accounts for the general favour with which this unfinished and imperfect work was received." I will only add that, in my judgment, the thoughts, language, and characters, are not without a degree of spirit and force, and are occasionally bold and original. As to “Grimm, the Collier of Croydon,” Schlegel does not enter into details. When, however, he joins it with “George a Green, the Pinner of Wakefield,” and expresses his opinion that both are not without merit, &c., he appears to me to overrate its

merits. In my opinion it stands in the domain of comedy exactly on the same line that the“ Jeronimo” does in tragedy, whereas the “Pinner of Wakefield” holds a far higher place. It is in equally bad taste with “ Jeronimo,” equally irregular in structure, and abounds in coarseness and vulgarity, which in comedy are the exact counterpart to the bombast of serious dialogue. As, however, according to the statements of English critics, this piece was reprinted as lately as 1600, in an edition now lost, it would seem to have long retained a place in the popular favour.

In fact—and herein the best English critics also agree with us —want of proportion and symmetry, and of adequate motives for the incidents and action of the piece, and, consequently, absence of plan, were the chief defects of the early English drama. That which in a maturer age of art, and under the empire of reflection, the poet readily attains to, is his greatest difficulty in its infancy, while fancy and sensibility are predominant. With all the fervour of youth the English poets of this period put forth successively, or crowded together all the riches of fancy, feeling, and affection, often compressing into a single piece several wholly distinct actions, and heaping incident upon incident, and as often, on the other hand, unnaturally and painfully drawing out a bald and simple story with long and tedious speeches. The scenes, often nothing more than detached situations, were arbitrarily arranged; the complication as well as the denouement of the plot was often lugged in by the ears, and as often unnaturally delayed. In short, in the same way that old paintings are frequently happy in individual parts, while the grouping and arrangement of the different figures are, for the most part, arbitrary, stiff, and constrained, so too in the early drama we meet with great want of true artistic composition. That which is generally the most difficult point in every kind of art must especially have perplexed the christian poet and artist. For the spirit of christian art, unconsciously indeed, but nevertheless from an absolute necessity, stood in need of a certain fulness of matter, and a greater multitude of figures, actions, and events, than were required by pagan art. Christianity has no mythology; to the christian view of things the Divine no longer presents itself before man in an objective sensuous shape, and cannot, therefore, exercise an immediate and external influence on his affairs. The sons of gods and godlike heroes are no more; by the one incarnation of the Deity all have been alike called to union with God. The Holy Spirit operates internally on all, and every one bears the Divinity within himself. The mystic heroes of the ancient drama, those typical representations of the general qualities of human nature, are wanting entirely in the modern dramatists. Consequently, if their poetry is to have universal import, if the general principles of humanity are to be exhibited objectively, not merely in the character of the acting personages, but also in the exhibited action, they must accomplish this object by a factitious and ideal repetition of it in the greatest possible variety of personages, actions, and events. This requisition of the spirit of christian art the poet involuntarily obeyed, wherever it sprung up freely from the christian enlightenment of the nation ; and consequently, while the ancient drama, which had its origin in the greater lyrical simplicity, was continually enlarging the number of actors, the range of subject, and the complication of the action, the modern drama followed a directly opposite course. This is at once proved by the vast extent of subject chosen for representation in the old Mysteries, and which, if indeed it was somewhat reduced at first in the Moralities, from certain external considerations, soon swelled again to equal, if not greater bulk. But now artistically to elaborate such masses is more difficult, than (what was the first problem with Æschylus) so to dispose three persons and a chorus as to form a well-rounded and harmonious whole. No wonder, therefore, that the earlier English dramatists did not at once succeed in this difficult task ; no wonder that much of the mass of action and events remained without adequate motive, and that consequently the epic element maintained its predominance, in so far as the incidents of the fable, instead of arising by necessity out of the characters of the personages of the poem or from the position of affairs, followed each other in simple and arbitrary succession.

From the same cause the early English dramatists fell into error as to the very idea of Tragedy. In order to ensure to it its general importance and the greatest possible effect, they exaggerated it even to the terrific and horrible, and to accomplish this they had recourse to the most forced situations, to descriptions of the wildest outbreaks of overwrought passions, and to a diction overloaded with vehement expressions and boldly hazarded figures. But even schylus, according to Aristophanes, not unfrequently offends by the turgid bombast of his tragic sublimity. Moreover, the stronger nerves of a people much more familiar than the present age with scenes of suffering of every kind, and hardened by the many criminal processes, and all the horrors of the Star Chamber, and the religious persecutions of Elizabeth and her predecessors, required the deepest shade of tragedy to move them. To this deep shade of tragedy corresponded in comedy the rude and vulgar, and not unfrequently a low buffoonery and obscene jesting had to supply the want of a more refined wit. The play of words, the form which popular wit most readily assumes, was too often nothing but verbal quibbling; persons of the lowest rank, pages, servingmen, waiters, &c., had the chief parts, and were the favourite exponents of the comic. The clown formed the centre of the sport, who, on all occasions, thrust himself, with or without reason, into the action, and, moreover, had the privilege of conversing with the spectators, in a kind of parabasis, and of making remarks and extemporising jokes on the little incidents of the pit and gallery. At the close it was usual for him to dance in a sort of afterpiece, called jig, for the special exhibition of his skill, to sing and make grimaces, to cut capers of all kinds, and as an accompaniment to improvise certain comic, not unfrequently senseless, verses—a custom which Shakspeare has modified and adapted to his purpose, in his “What you Will,” and in “Love's labour's lost.”

This is the dark side of the earlier English Drama, which, however, was not only relieved by a few separate rays of light, but was itself deepened by the agreeable warmth and brightness of the flame with which it was contrasted. Poesy as yet resembled a luxurious virgin soil; it was, as it were, a chaos of fermenting elements. Its several productions shot up like rank weeds; their structure was in general rude and disproportioned, the shapeless primary forms of a yet undisciplined creative power. Generally, however, it is even this native luxuriant energy of mind, this swelling, shooting and teeming of the first spring, which delights the intelligent, and refreshes the child of exhausted civilization. Even in Shakspeare's poems we occasionally meet with this dark

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