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the former book was “ idle and unOBSERVATIONS ON
profitable,” that affords but an inade“ Macbeth and King Richard III. quate apology for multiplying the of
an Essay, in Answer to Remarks fence, by writing another of the same on some of the Characters of Shakes- kind. peare ; by J. P. Kemble.'
I am aware, however, that on the
subject of which this little volume MR EDITOR,
treats, a book may claim the attention Though arrived at that time of of the public on slighter grounds than life when men are supposed partial to on any other topic. SHAKESPEARE is past times, I will fairly own the supe- so much the god of British idolatry, rior powers of my countrymen, of the that every work relating to him is popresent times, in writing and composi- pular. Hence the numberless critics tion. Yet I may be allowed to re- and commentators who have been read mark, that the confidence of publica- with avidity, not from their own mertion is at least equal to the abilities, in its, either of learning or of taste, but point of writing, possessed by the pre- merely because they criticised or comsent generation. Authorship, former- mented on Shakespeare, and, like the ly a rare and envied distinction, is now scholiasts on Homer, have borrowed so common as to lift a man (I should an importance from their illustrious say a person, for it is now as much a subject, with little intrinsic value in female as a male quality) but little their own productions. The works of above the mass of men around him ; Shakespeare are," not to speak it proand if we cannot say, with quite as fanely,” the Bible of the drama to us. much justice as formerly, “Scribimus Their commentators, like those of that indocti doctique,"—for I willown there sacred book, are received with an inis more literature among us than our terest which their subject only could fathers and mothers possessed,—we confer on sometimes very dull and may at least say, that every thing is frivolous productions. One author of published which is written, whether considerable eminence produced an altogether worthy of publication or Essay, very similar to Mr Kemble's, not.
to prove the valour of Falstaff. Mr I am sorry, that in my opinion the Kemble enters now for the first time present volume may be classed among the field of authorship, to vindicate those which it might be held unne- the personal courage of Macbeth,—to cessary to publish, because our respect controvert the degrading distinction for the author would incline us to which Mr Whately had supposed bewish, that nothing should come from tween that personage and Richard III. his pen which the public should think The first, according to that critic, unworthy of him. It is indeed an “having not intrepidity, like Richard, answer to another book or pamphlet but merely resolution, proceeding from of Mr Whately, sanctioned by an edi- exertion, 'not from nature,-betraytor of eminence, Mr Steevens. But if ing, in enterprize, a degree of fear, though he is able, when occasion re- feelings of the sex. In love, in hatred, quires, to stifle and subdue it.” in ambition, the overbearing passion
On this narrow ground Mr Kem- of the moment quite unsexes them ; ble enters the list with Mr Whately, the most timid become bold, the most and his second, Mr Steevens, and pro- gentle fierce, the most irresolute revided with a great number of quota- solved. In the attainment of whattions froin the tragedy, traces the ever favourite object, women are much character of its hero from its opening less restrained than men, by reflections to its close, as one of determined cour- on the past, or calculations on the fuage and intrepidity,-a courage not ture. Lady Macbeth has none of excited by exertion to any particular those doubts or fears which come purpose, but native to the person, and across the mind of her lord ; she looks an inherent quality in his mind. I straight forward to the crown, and think Mr Kemble has made out the sees no bar, from humanity or conpoint for which he contends ; but I science, in the way. feel in the two characters compared, The developement of Macbeth's a distinction more marked, in my opi- character is one of the finest things in nion, and more important, than that that admirable drama. What has been on which Mr Kemble has written, criticised as a barbarous departure from with considerable labour, no fewer dramatic rule in Shakespeare, in the than 170 pages.
construction of his plays, affords, in That distinction seems to me to con- truth, the means of tracing the growth sist, not in any particular quality, such and progress of character, the current as that of personal courage, but in of the human mind, in which he exthe original structure of mind of the cels all other dramatists, much more two persons represented, distinguished completely than an adherence to the by Shakespeare with his usual inti- unity of fime could have allowed.mate knowledge of human nature. The bursts of passion may be shown That knowledge, with which Shakes- in a moment; a story may be compeare seems gifted in an almost mira- pressed, at least in its most interesting culous degree, enables him, beyond parts, into very small compass; but any other dramatist, to individualize the growth, the gradual ripening of his characters. There is nothing ge- character, cannot be traced but in a neral, nothing given in the abstract; considerable space of time. We must every character is a portrait, with be led through many intermediate those marked and peculiar features by transactions, before such a character which we immediately recognize the as that of Macbeth can be exhibited individual. Macbeth and Richard are to us, changed, by steps so natural as both ambitious; but their ambition to gain our fullest belief, from the is differently modified, by the differ- brave and gallant soldier whom Dunent dispositions which the poet has can honours, into the bloody and reshewn them originally to possess. lentness tyrant who wades through There is a process, a gradation, in blood to the throne, and remains the crimes and ambition of Macbeth; steeped in blood to maintain himself Richard is from the beginning a vil- there, yet retains enough of its orilain,-a hard remorseless villain,— ginal tincture of virtue (or at least the with no restraint but his own in- sense of virtue) and humanity, as to terest or safety, acting from the im- interest us in his fall at the close of a pulse of his own dark mind alone, life sullied by every crime, and which, adinitting no adviser from without, no but for the art of the poet, we should conscience from within. Macbeth re- devote to pure unmitigated hatred. quires a prompter for his ambition, a In truth, the same intimate knowledge more than accomplice in his crimes. of the human heart that enabled him That prompter, and that accomplice, to unwind the maze of Macbeth's for. Shakespeare has given him in his wife; mer conduct, guides the poet in that and with his wonted depth of dis- softening which he has given to his cernment of the peculiar attributes character in the closing scenes. Durof our nature, he has given her that ing the bustle of the chase of ambirapid unhesitating resolution in wick. tion, such feelings have no room to edness, which, in female wickedness, unfold themselves; but if any pause is the effect of the weakness, and the occurs (such as here the death of the quickly as well as strongly excited Queen) they re-assert the power which
they originally possessed ; and such is fore us in the stage, has been often the case with this“ fiend of Scotland.” remarked. This scenic deception is
His nature is not obdurate like that of a very peculiar kind ; it puts the of Richard; he looks back on his reality a little way off, but does not past life, when he is softened by the altogether hide it from our view. We sense of that forlorn and deserted si- see Mr Kemble and Mrs Siddons, we tuation in which he stands, compared know them for Mr K. and Mrs S.; with that of the murdered Duncan. but we judge of and feel for thein as “ Duncan is in his grave.
Coriolanus and Volumnia.
It is an After life's fitful fever he sleeps well," &c. improvement on dramatic representaMy way of life
tion (which in this place I may menIs fallen into the sear and yellow leaf,” &c. tion to the honour of Mr Kemble) to
Hence that scarce unwilling pity bring the scene before us with all the which we afford him, abated only, not mechanical adjuncts which may asextinguished, by the recollection of sist the deception. The dress of the his past atrocities.
performers, the streets and temples of Personal regard for Mr Kemble the scene, the statues of the temples, makes me, I confess, unwilling to and the furniture of apartments, should dwell upon a work which I think un- certainly be brought as near as possiworthy of him. I will only quote one ble to the costume and other circumor two passages which fall particularly stances belonging to the country and within the scope of his own profession, place of the representation ; and this as a specimen of the style of the book. is what Mr Kemble, both as an actor
A play is written (says Mr Kem- and manager, has accomplished, to the ble) on some event, for the purpose of great and everlasting improvement of being acted; and plays are so insepar- the British stage. able from the notion of action, that, In another passage, Mr K. considers in reading them, our reflection, neces- the moral effect of this drama, and sarily bodying forth the carriage which contradicts the idea of Mr Steevens in it conceives the various characters the following passage. would sustain on the stage, becomes “Mr Steevens says— One of Shakeits own theatre, and gratifies itself with speare's favourite morals is, that crian ideal representation of the piece. minality reduces the brave and pusilThis operation of the mind demon- lanimous to a level.:-(Mr Steevens strates, that Mr Whately has in this probably meant to say, that criminalplace once more misconstrued Shake- ity reduces the brave to a level with speare; for there is no risk in saying, the pusillanimous.)- Every puny that the eye of a spectator would turn, whipster gets my sword, exclaims 0offended, from the affront offered to thello, for why should honour outlive credibility, by the impassive levity of honesty ?-Where I could not be honmanner set down for Banquo in the est, says Albany, I was never valiant. REMARKS.” Page 53.
-Jachimo imputes his want of manThis is perfectly just ; but we ap- hood to the heaviness and guilt within prehend that the imagination of the his bosom.-Hamlet asserts, that conreader would go a step higher than science does make cowards of us all ; that to which Mr K. here conducts it. and Imogen tells Pisanio, he may be It is no doubt natural for a person valiant in a better cause, but now he who has often witnessed scenes repre- seems a coward. Shakespeare, vol. x. sented on the stage (it is more parti- p. 297. cularly natural for Mr Kemble) to re- “ Is there, among these instances, fer them to that representation ; but one that approaches to any thing like a a person conversant with men and parallel with Macbeth ? The sophistry books, but who had never seen a play, of such perverse trifling with a stader's would refer them to the events ac- time and patience, completely exposes tually happening in real life, and the itself in the example of Jachimo, who language and deportment of those con- is indeed most unwarily introduced on cerned in them, to the language and this occasion. Mr Steevens, for some deportment which, in such real cir- cause or other, seems determined to cumstances, they would have heid. be blind on this side ; otherwise, he The ductility of our imaginations, in must have seen, if consciousness of supposing ourselves spectators of e- guilt be, as he says, the measure of vents at Rome or Athens placed be- pusillanimity, that, by his own rule.
Jachimo should have been the victor “In the first speech which we hear in his combat with Posthumus; for from the mouth of Macbeth in his rehe ought to have been braver than his verse of fortune, Shakespeare still conadversary, in the same proportion as tinues to show an anxiety that, though a vain mischievous liar is still less we detest the tyrant for his cruelties, atrociously a wretch than an ungrate- we should yet respect him for his ful murderer. Mr Steevens concludes: courage : • Who then can suppose that Shakes- Macb. • Bring me no more reports ; let peare would have exhibited his Mac- them fly all ; beth with increasing guilt, but un
Till Birnam-wood remove to Dunsinane,
What's the boy diminished bravery?" Shakespeare, I cannot taint with fear.
Malcolm ? vol. x. p. 297.
“The only answer to this dogmatical Was he not born of woman ? The spirits question is, -Every body ;-that is, All mortal consequents, pronounc'd me thus: every body who can read the play, and Pear not, Macbeth ; no man that's born of understand what he reads. Mr Steevens knew that Shakespeare, skilfully Shall e'er have power on thee.*
_Then fly, preparing us for the mournful change false Thanes, we are about to witness in Macbeth, And mingle with the English epicures : paints in deep colours the irregular The mind I sway by, and the heart I bear, fury of his actions, and the remorse
Shall never sagg with doubt, nor shake with
fear !'t that preys on his heart ;-he knew,
But the moral effect of this play seems that the blood-stained monster
very little connected with the courage - Cannot buckle his distemper'd cause
or personal valour of Macbeth ; it is proWithin the belt of rule ;'
duced by the delineation which the poet that he feels
has given of the progress of his criminal • His secret murders sticking on his hands;'t ambition ; to warn us against the first and that the poet finishes this terrific deviation from rectitude,--the first picture of self-condemnation and ab- yielding to temptations arising from horrence, by adding :
our self-interest or desire of advancem * His pester'd senses do recoil, and start ment, if our road to such objects lies When all that is within him doth condemn through crime and inhumanity; to Itself for being there :'I“But the learned Editor quite forgets
• Mr Steevens' edition has, for an obthat, in the same scene, good care is vious cause, been used in the quotations taken that the tyrant shall not so far from Shakespeare from this Essay: It is forfeit all claim to our esteem, as to fall time, however, to protest, in the strongest
terms, against the unwarrantable liberties into contempt, and be entirely odious to he continually takes with his author. If our sight. His original valour remains Heminge and Condell were, in fairness, undiminished, and buoys him up with chargeable with all the faults which Mr wild vehemence in this total wreck of Steevens, their unsparing censor, industrihis affairs : in spite of us, he com- ously lays to their account, still they have mands our admiration, when we see not done Shakespeare all the injury he him-hated, abandoned, overwhelmed would receive, if the interpolations, omis. by calamity, public and domestic, still sions, and transpositions, of the edition of
1803 should ever be permitted to form the persist, unshrinking, to brave his ene
text of his works. This gentleman cermies, and manfully prepare against tainly had many of the talents and acquirethe siege with which their combined ments expected in a good Editor of our armies threaten him in his almost poet ; but still he wanted more than one of ungarrisoned fortress :-
the most requisite of them. Mr Steevens Cath. Great Dunsinane he strongly for- had no ear for the colloquial metre of our tifies ;'S
old dramatists : it is not possible, on any And the English general presently af- sical desire, and the pains he takes, to fetter
other supposition, to account for his whimter says to him :
the enchanting freedom of Shakespeare's Siw. • We learn no other, but the confident numbers, and compel them into the heroic tyrant
march and measured cadence of epic versiKeeps still in Dunsinane, and will endure fication. The native wood notes wild, that Our sitting down before it.'ll
could delight the cultivated ear of Milton,
must not be modulated anew, to indulge the • Macbeth, Act V. Scene II. fastidiousness of those who read verses by Ibid.
their fingers.' # Ibid. Act V. Scene IV.
+ Macbeth, Act V. Scene III.
show us how the soul can become har- with it a train of overpowering recoldened by degrees, till she loses all her lections. - When there is real beauty original regard for virtue, all the for- in a musical air, associations of this mer better feelings of her nature: kind greatly enhance it. Every Eng
I cannot help expressing my regret lishman who has been fortunate enough that Mr K. should have published this to hear the melodies of Scotland sung little volume, particularly as it may be in the land that gave them birth, with supposed the precursor and specimen the touching simplicity and pathos inof a great work, which it has been fused into them by those who deeply said he meditates in the leisure which feel the sympathies which they are his retirement from the stage will now fitted to excite, must be alive to a deallow him to command. I have heard, gree of pleasure from a Scottish air, that he means to devote that leisure to which, without this association, it the illustration of his favourite Shakes- could never have communicated.-It peare, and the other less known drama- is moreover remarkable, that, in some tists of the olden time. I hope he cases, the ordinary effect of a melody will prosecute this design, which the may be entirely reversed, by a change bent of his studies, both as a scholar of the circumstances in which it hapand an actor, gives him such favoura- pens to be heard. Thus, we are someble opportunities of successfully accom- where told by Mr Boswell, in his Life plishing. But let him not confine of Dr Johnson, that the merry airs of himself to verbal criticism or minute the Beggars' Opera, when accidentally remark; and, above all, let him avoid heard by him in Scotland, affected him any polemical writing on Shakespeare, with melancholy, by bringing to his of which we have already too much. mind various pleasures of the
English Let him study and illustrate the metropolis, where he had first listened authors to whom we allude in their to them, and the friends then so widegreater attributes; in their delin- ly separated from him, in whose socieeation of mind and of character, a- ty he had happened to be. midst the eventful scenes in which It is on the same principle of assothey have placed the persons of their ciation that we are to explain the effect dramas; in their power of placing of particular instruments of music, in those before us in their genuine col- exciting trains of feeling in some deours, to instruct as well as to delight gree appropriate to them. The “spirit their readers—to give moral to fiction, stirring drum," necessarily brings with and force to truth.
SENEX. it the idea of military parade and glory.
And the organ being usually the accompaniment of sacred music, natur
ally leads the mind to the subjects CURSORY REMARKS ON MUSIC, ESPE- with which habit has connected it.
On the same principle, we are to exCOMMUNI• plain the effect of particular tunes,
which, having always been associated (Concluded from page 347.)
with certain emotions, have a never
failing power of rekindling them, and In attempting to account for the have thus been rendered powerful auxpleasure derived from melody, I have iliaries in the excitement of patriotism purposely avoided alluding to that kind or of loyalty. of gratification which arises from the If we examine the history of musiexcitement of obvious associations, be- cal taste in any individual, we shall cause, though these often heighten find, that a relish for simple melody greatly the enjoyment, yet they are has been the first step in its attainment; by no means essential to it. In some and that a perception of the pleasure instances, associations of this kind, so of harmony has been generally a slow far from being productive of pleasure and gradual acquirement. In a few able feelings, become sources of the instances, however, where an extraorkeenest mental anguish, as in the ma- dinary ear for music has been early ladie du pays, so strongly excited in manifested, the power of discriminatthe Swiss by an air, which, to an ing harmony has so rapidly followed a English ear, certainly seems little cal- taste for melody, as almost to have apculated to excite emotion, but to a na- peared coeval with it. This was retive of that happy country, brings markably the case with a gentleman,
CIALLY ON THE SOURCES OF THE