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But it is here urged by Mr. Malone, that an exact imitation of Gower would have proved unintelligible to any audience during the reign of Elizabeth. If it were (which I am slow to admit) our author's judgment would scarce have permitted him to choose an agent so inadequate to the purpose of an interpreter; one whose years and phraseology must be set at variance before he could be understood, one who was to assume the form, office, and habit of an ancient, and was yet to speak the language of a modern.
I am ready to allow my opponent that the authors who introduced Machiavel, Guicciardine, and the Monk of Chester, on the stage, have never yet been blamed because they avoided to make the two former speak in their native tongue, and the latter in the English dialect of his age. The proper language of the Italian statesman and historian, could not have been understood by our common audiences; and as to Rainulph, he is known to have composed his Chronicle in Latin. Besides, these three personages were writers in prose. They are alike called up to superintend the relations which were originally found in their respective books; and the magick that converted them into poets, might claim an equal power over their modes of declamation. The case is otherwise, when ancient bards, whose compositions were in English, are summoned from the grave to instruct their countrymen; for these apparitions may be expected to speak in the style and language that distinguishes their real age, and their known productions, when there is no sufficient reason why they should depart from them.
If the inequalities of measure which I have pointed out, be also visible in the lyrick parts of Macbeth, &c. I must observe that throughout these plays our author has not professed to imitate the style or manner of any acknowledged character or age; and therefore was tied down to the observation of no particular rules. Most of the irregular lines, however, in A MidsummerNight's Dream, &c. I suspect of having been prolonged by casual monosyllables, which stole into them through the inattention of the copyist, or the impertinence of the speaker.—If indeed the choruses in Pericles contain many such marked expressions as are discoverable in Shakspeare's other dramas, I must confess that they have hitherto escaped my notice; unless they may be said to occur in particulars which of necessity must be common to all soliloquies of a similar kind. Such interlocutions cannot fail occasionally to contain the same modes of address, and the same persuasive arguments to solicit indulgence and secure applause. As for the ardentia verba celebrated by Ma Malone, (to borrow Milton's phrase,) in my apprehension they burn but cold and frore.
To these observations I may add, that though Shakspeare seems to have been well versed in the writings of Chaucer, his plays contain no marks of his acquaintance with the works of Gower, from whose fund of stories not one of his plots is adopted. When I quoted the Confessio Amantis to illustrate "Florentius' love" in The Taming of a Shrew, it was only because I had then met with no other book in which that tale was related. I ought not to quit the subject of these choruses without remarking that Gower interposes no less than six times in the course of our play, exclusive of his introduction and peroration. Indeed he enters as often as any chasm in the story requires to be supplied. I do not recollect the same practice in other tragedies, to which the chorus usually serves as a prologue, and then appears only between the Acts. Shakspeare's legitimate pieces in which these mediators are found, might still be represented without their aid; but the omission of Gower in Pericles would render it so perfectly confused, that the audience might justly exclaim with Othellos "Chaos is come again."
Very little that can tend with certainty to establish or oppose our author's exclusive right in this dramatick performance, is to be collected from the dumb shows; for he has no such in his other plays, as will serve to direct our judgment. These in Pericles are not introduced (in compliance with two ancient customs) at stated periods, or for the sake of adventitious splendor. They do not appear before every Act, like those in Ferrex and Porrex; they are not, like those in Jocasta, merely ostentatious. Such deviations from common practice incline me to believe that originally there were no mute exhibitions at all throughout the piece; but that when Shakspeare undertook to reform it, finding some parts peculiarly long and uninteresting, he now and then struck out the dialogue, and only left the action in its room; advising the author to add a few lines to his choruses, as auxiliaries on the occasion. Those whose fate it is to be engaged in the repairs of an old mansion-house, must submit to many aukward expedients, which they would have escaped in a fabrick constructed on their own plan: or it might be observed, that though Shakspeare has expressed his contempt of such dumb shows as were inexplicable, there is no reason to believe he would have pointed the same ridicule at others which were more easily understood. I do not readily perceive that the aid of a dumb show is much more reprehensible than that of a chorus:
Segnius irritant animos demissa per aurem "Quam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus."
If it be observed that the latter will admit of sentiment and poetical imagery, it may be also urged that the former will serve to furnish out such spectacles of magnificence as should by no
means appear despicable in a kingdom which has ever encouraged the pomp of lord mayors' feasts, installments, and coronations. I should extend these remarks to an unwarrantable length, or might be tempted to prove that many of Shakspeare's plays exhibit traces of these solemn pantomimes;* though they are too adroitly managed by him to have need of verbal interpretation.
Next it may be remarked, that the valuable parts of Pericles are more distinguished by their poetical turn, than by variety of character, or command over the passions. Partial graces are indeed almost the only improvements that the mender of a play already written can easily introduce; for an error in the first concoction can be redeemed by no future process of chemistry. A few flowery lines may here and there be strewn on the surface of a dramatick piece; but these have little power to impregnate its general mass. Character, on the contrary, must be designed at the author's outset, and proceed with gradual congeniality through the whole. In genuine Shakspeare, it insinuates itself every where, with an address like that of Virgil's snakesit tortile collo
"Aurum ingens coluber; fit longæ tænia vittæ,
But the drama before us contains no discrimination of manners,† (except in the comick dialogues,) very few traces of original thought, and is evidently destitute of that intelligence and useful knowledge that pervade even the meanest of Shakspeare's undisputed performances. To speak more plainly, it is neither enriched by the gems that sparkle through the rubbish of Love's Labour's Lost, nor the good sense which so often fertilizes the barren fable of The Two Gentlemen of Verona.-Pericles, in short, is little more than a string of adventures so numerous, so
The reader who is willing to pursue this hint, may consult what are now called the stage directions, throughout the folio 1623, in the following pages. I refer to this copy, because it cannot be suspected of modern interpolation. Tempest, p. 13, 15, 16. All's Well &c. 234, 238. King Henry VI. P. I. 100, 102, 105. Ditto, P. II. 125, 127, 129. Ditto, P. III. 164. King Henry VIII. 206, 207, 211, 215, 224, 226, 231. Coriolanus, 6, 7. Titus Andronicus, 31. Timon, 82. Macbeth, 135, 144. Hamlet, 267. Antony and Cleopatra, 351, 355. Cymbeline, 392, 393.
+ Those opticks that can detect the smallest vestige of Shakspeare in the character of the Pentapolitan monarch, cannot fail with equal felicity to discover Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt, and to find all that should adorn the Graces, in the persons and conduct of the weird sisters. Compared with this Simonides, the King of Navarre, in Love's Labour's Lost, Theseus, in A Midsummer-Night's Dream, and the Rex fistulatissimus in All's well that ends well, are the rarest compounds of Machiavel and Hercules.
inartificially crouded together, and so far removed from probability, that, in my private judgment, I must acquit even the irregular and lawless Shakspeare of having constructed the fabrick of the drama, though he has certainly bestowed some decoration on its parts. Yet even this decoration, like embroidery on a blanket, only serves by contrast to expose the meanness of the original materials. That the plays of Shakspeare have their inequalities likewise, is sufficiently understood; but they are still the inequalities of Shakspeare. He may occasionally be absurd, but is seldom foolish; he may be censured, but can rarely be despised.
I do not recollect a single plot of Shakspeare's formation (or even adoption from preceding plays or novels) in which the majority of the characters are not so well connected, and so necessary in respect of each other, that they proceed in combination to the end of the story; unless that story (as in the cases of Antigonus and Mercutio) requires the interposition of death. In Pericles this continuity is wanting:
"disjectas moles, avulsaque saxis
and even with the aid of Gower the scenes are rather loosely tacked together, than closely interwoven. We see no more of Antiochus after his first appearance. His anonymous daughter utters but one unintelligible couplet, and then vanishes. Simonides likewise is lost as soon as the marriage of Thaisa is over; and the punishment of Cleon and his wife, which poetick justice demanded, makes no part of the action, but is related in a kind of epilogue by Gower. This is at least a practice which in no instance has received the sanction of Shakspeare. From such deficiency of mutual interest, and liaison among the personages of the drama, I am further strengthened in my belief that our great poet had no share in constructing it.* Dr. Johnson long
It is remarkable, that not a name appropriated by Shakspeare to any character throughout his other plays, is to be found in this. At the same time the reader will observe that, except in such pieces as are built on historical subjects, or English fables, he employs the same proper names repeatedly in his different dramas.
Cymbeline. Demetrius. M. N. Dream. Valentine. Two Gent. Balthasar.. Much Ado. Escalus.
R. and Juliet.
Two Gent. Much Ado. T. Night. M. of V.
L. L. Lost.
M. of Ven.
All's Well. M. N. Dr. Tr. and Cress.
Ant. and Cl.
M. of Ven. Com. of E. R. and Jul,>
ago observed that his real power is not seen in the splendor of particular passages, but in the progress of his fable, and the tenour
Diomedes. Tr. and Cress.
M. for Meas.
Tr. and Cress.
Ant. and Cleo.
R. and Jul.
M. for Meas.
L. L. Lost.
M. for Meas.
Ant. and Cleo.
To these may be added such as only differ from each other by means of fresh terminations:
Ant. and Cleo.
R. and Jul.
T. the Shrew.
Names that in some plays are appropriated to speaking characters, in other dramas are introduced as belonging only to absent persons or things. Thus we have mention of a
Rosaline, a Lucio, a Helena, a Valentine, &c. in Romeo and Juliet.
Ferdinand and Troilus, in the Taming of a Shrew, &c.
I have taken this minute trouble to gain an opportunity of observing how unlikely it is that Shakspeare should have been content to use second-hand names in so many of his more finished plays, and at the same time have bestowed original ones throughout the scenes of Pericles. This affords additional suspicion, to me, at least, that the story, and the personæ dramatis, were not of our author's selection.-Neither Gower, nor the translator of King Appolyn, has been followed on this occasion; for the names of Pericles, Escanes, Simonides, Cleon, Lysimachus, and Marina, are foreign to the old story, as related both by the poet and the novellist.