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Greene, with this difference, however, that while the latter's failings resulted from weakness of character and frivolity, with Marlowe on the contrary, who possessed an excess rather than want of strength of mind and will, it was the immoderation of his feelings and desires, the passionate susceptibility, and the strange fantastic cast of his whole character, that were the source of his ruinous irregularities and immorality. Like his life and character, his very death was violent. It is now ascertained that Marlowe died in the prime of life in the following manner :-having attacked, in a fit of jealousy, one Francis Archer, his rival in love, with his dagger, his antagonist, being the stronger man, wrested his own weapon from him, and drove it into his head; from this wound he died on the 1st of June, 1593.
Marlowe was in all essential points the direct opposite of Greene; while the latter delighted in a cheerful grace, and agreeableness of style, Marlowe aimed solely and exclusively at the forcible, extraordinary, and sublime. He possessed, in fact, a vigorous, and -not to lay too much stress upon the term-a great mind; but his heart was waste and rude, and it is from the heart that every truly great thought proceeds. Accordingly, under his hand, the forcible becomes the forced, the uncommon the unnatural, while the great and sublime sinks into the grotesque and monstrous. As, within his own breast, inordinate passions and emotions stormed and raged, so, in the world, he discerned a titan-like conflict and struggle between mighty forces, which must ultimately destroy and annihilate each other; so that moral necessity can only appear amid ruin and desolation. Accordingly, in Marlowe's pieces, the tragical almost always degenerates into the horrible. With him the essence of tragedy consists not in the fall of the truly noble, great, and lovely, brought on by its own intellectual weakness, but rather in the internecine struggle of the primary elements of human nature, the destructive conflict of its mightiest faculties and impulses, forcibly drawn out of their proper career, and of the most vehement affections and passions. To such a height does he frequently accumulate terrific and monstrous events, deeds of violence, enormities and crimes, that no corresponding catastrophe, nor adequate punishment, can be devised for them; and the close of the piece consequently appears as a low and narrow outlet through which the mass of the action seeks in vain to force its way. Accordingly, the last moments of his heroes, however they may distress and agitate, never exalt or elevate the feelings. His notion of tragedy comprehends in it nothing of solace and atonement. Nevertheless, his mental vigour alone has enabled him to do that which was wholly beyond the power of Greene; his poetical matter is well connected and condensed; his dramas have for their basis a vital concrete idea, a fully defined view of life and the world, out of which the whole composition appears to have grown naturally, and organically to have perfected itself. So far his composition possesses solidity and perfectness, and Skottowe is plainly wrong when he refuses to allow him any merit in this respect. But, on the other hand, some of his details are disproportionately dwelt upon; his scenes do not run into each other simply and naturally, but are tacked together without harmony, and so far, no doubt, betoken a want of true artistic judgment. The action not unfrequently stands perfectly still, while certain incoherent excrescences attach themselves to it; in short, the intrinsic unity of idea is not combined with extrinsic grace and perfection; the outward form is angular, clumsy, and stiff. In like manner, his characters are painted with a few broad touches, and in strong light and shade; they are seldom truly grand, but, for the most part, extravagant and monstrous; bold and vigorous, indeed, so far as they are drawn, always imperfect and incomplete. In these points, again, where Greene is weakest, Marlowe is strongest; he possesses, in an eminent degree, the power of pourtraying, with the greatest vigour and expression, the inmost states, passions, and emotions of the soul; his characters, in short, are, generally speaking, nothing but affection—all passion and sensibility; viewed on this side, they appear over-full; while, on the other hand, they are deficient in the finer touches, and nicer alternations of light and shade, between self-command and passionate ebullition, and the several grades of evolution and progress.
All his passions and affections, and with them the incidents of the action, spring forth at once fixed and mature; they are there, but why or wherefore we know not—all reflection is excluded; his personages seem, we might almost say, to be entirely without thought or reflection; and, accordingly, it is rarely we meet with a general sentiment in a drama of Marlowe's; this domain of mind he has left altogether uncultivated. But what we most especially miss in the works of this author is, a living relation and interaction between the outer and the inner world of his dramatic personages. While with Greene the acts and events of the piece appear for the most part to derive their motives from without, with Marlowe they seem entirely to proceed from within; his characters act in the way they do, from no apparent motive or antecedent cause so disposing them, but because such is their humour at the moment when they are called upon to will and to act. Marlowe's diction is generally copious and nervous, pregnant and impressive-his delineations of passion and affection most commonly happy; it is, however, wanting in grace and tenderness; and in the same way that in the structure of his fable and in his characters he delights in the extraordinary, the massive, and the prodigious, so in his language he is ever aiming at unusual and striking figures, and consequently too often sinks into inflation and bombast. To Marlowe, however, belongs the merit of effecting a great improvement in dramatic diction; the weight of his example having led to the invariable adoption of blank verse even in the more popular pieces of the public theatres. Marlowe was the first to employ it on a public stage, and carried it to a degree of perfection which comes very near to that of Shakspeare. (Collier, iii. 115, &c., 128, &c., goes at length into this subject). Moreover, Marlowe possesses a distinct and stronglymarked character of style. To describe briefly its chief peculiarities, we may observe in the first place, that its chief defect is the undue predominance which the lyrical element maintains in all his pieces, the decidedly lyrical manner in which he handles dramatic poetry. He entirely overlooks the outward world, and never duly considers the objectivity of mind and life wherein necessity reigns with iron hand, lopping off all immoderation and excess, while the subjective, and therewith the capricious also, which rejects both measure and restraint, are with him everywhere paramount. Hence the monstrous and the unnatural in his characters and plots, where all is passion and emotion; hence, too, the want of circumspection-the precipitancy, and the inadequacy of the motives—the want of a gradual march of the plot, and of a graceful and harmonious movement in the language and action.
To justify, in some measure, my judgment of this writer, I shall here subjoin a few remarks on the two tragedies which are unanimously allowed to be his masterpieces—Thie" Jew of Malta” and “Edward II.”* Both exhibit his best qualities in an eminent degree; but, at the same time, an attentive eye will easily discern in them all his faults. The leading idea in the "Jew of Malta,” as it is set forth in the prologue, is a perfect Machiavellism—a view of life which makes an unqualified selfishness the sole principle of human conduct; the powerful instinct of self-preservation, and the desire of happiness, power, and riches, is exhibited in conflict with the whole world; the frame of human nature is forcibly rent asunder, and one of its primary elements, degraded into a murderous lust of revenge seeking to vent itself on the whole world, is violently divorced from all the other instincts and faculties of humanity. Thus, the Jew, the principal character of the piece, appears on the stage (animated by a passionate selfishness), and inflamed with boundless rage against his persecutors and all mankind, and enslaved by a desire of vengeance, to which he sacrifices even his own child, and involves both the innocent and the guilty in the same destruction. But the Governor and Selim Calymath, Christians and Mahomedans, exhibit the same unpitying selfishness and disregard of others. In the Jew, however, it is carried to such a height that the ruin of the world, or of himself, is inevitable. Nevertheless, we see not why or how he has become such a monster. In the first scene Barabas is depicted merely as a rich, money-making Jew, proud of his gold; while, a few scenes further on, he is a monster of vindictiveness, hatred, and vice, without shame or pity, and devoid of the commonest feelings of our nature, cruel and bloodthirsty even to madness; and in this inwardly brooding passionateness and thirst for slaughter he perseveres throughout the whole piece. Even though it should be thought that all the atrocious designs which follow in such rapid succession, and, in spite of their enormity, are invariably successful, spring naturally out of the extraordinary cunning and ready invention of the Jew, still it must be admitted that, on the whole, chance plays the principal part in them; and a chance,
* Translated in Bulow's Altenglischer Schaubuhne.
appears the more capricious, as all these enormities have no profound end in view—no ideal result. The Jew dies in the midst of his crimes, with blasphemy and cursing on his lips. But not even on any of the other personages of the piece does this tissue of horrors produce any result; all remains at the end as it was at the beginning. Moreover, the scenes change so rapidly, without any living bond of connection; the action proceeds so entirely in a straight line, though by fits and starts; the characters go off and come on the stage with so little of apparent reason; and such a crowd of subordinate figures—the three Jews, for instance, the Monks and Nuns, the mother of Don Mathias, &c.—appear and vanish so quickly, at the waving, as it were, of the hand, and just as they are wanted, and are so outwardly, and without preparation, foisted into the action, that the defects of the composition are at once apparent.
Far more perfect is “Edward II.” It is an historical tragedy, in the style of the day, i. e. historical in the subordinate sense of biographical ; for, in fact, nothing but the personal fortunes of Edward himself are matter of representation; the state and people play no part in common with him, or, at most, incidentally only. Life is here conceived under the important and fundamental relation which subsists between the individuality of the man, the inward bias of his mind, his natural instincts and inclinations on the one hand, and on the other the outward objective position assigned to him by birth and a higher providence. This relation is destroyed by Edward's character and behaviour, and is dissolved into contradictions; by these means he prepares his own ruin, and thus the leading idea of the poem becomes, in a genuinely poetic and dramatic manner, at the same time a tragic destiny. It is not that Edward has his favourites, but he makes his capriciously chosen favourites his ministers of state and great nobles, that all is given up to them, and that he mixes up his individual humours with his dignity as King, his subjective inclinations with the business and wants of the state, and is unable to separate the monarch and the man, and thereby chaotically dissolves the relation between them ;-this it is that constitutes the pernicious weakness of his otherwise good and amiable disposition. "The Queen, on the other hand, is driven,