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O thou art fairer than the evening air
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars !” i “Oh, my God, I would weep! but the devil draws in my tears. Gush forth blood, instead of tears! yea, life and soul !
Oh, he stays my tongue! I would lift up my hands; but see, they hold them, they hold them; Lucifer and Mephistophilis.”
There is the living, struggling, natural, personal man, not the philosophic type which Goethe has created, but a primitive and genuine man, hot-headed, fiery, the slave of his passions, the sport of his dreams, wholly engrossed in the present, moulded by his lusts, contradictions, and follies, who amidst noise and starts, cries of pleasure and anguish, rolls, knowing it and willing it, down the slope and crags of his precipice. The whole English drama is here, as a plant in its seed, and Marlowe is to Shakespeare what Perugino was to Raphael.
V. Gradually art is being formed; and toward the close of the century it is complete. Shakespeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, Ben Jonson, Webster, Massinger, Ford, Middleton, Heywood, appear together, or close upon each other, a new and favored generation, flourishing largely in the soil fertilized by the efforts of the generation which preceded them. Thenceforth the scenes are de
2 Ibid. p. 78.
1 Marlowe, Doctor Faustus, p. 75.
veloped and assume consistency; the characters cease to move all of a piece, the drama is no longer like a piece of statuary. The poet who a little while ago knew only how to strike or kill, introduces now a sequence of situation and a rationale in intrigue. He begins to prepare the way for sentiments, to forewarn us of events, to combine effects, and we find theatre at last, the most complete, the most life-like, and also the most strange that ever existed.
We must follow its formation, and regard the drama when it was formed, that is, in the minds of its authors. What was going on in these minds? What sorts of ideas were born there, and how were they born ? In the first place, they see the event, whatever it be, and they see it as it is; I mean that they have it within themselves, with its persons and details, beautiful and ugly, even dull and grotesque. If it is a trial, the judge is there, in their minds, in his place, with his physiognomy and his warts; the plaintiff in another place, with his spectacles and brief-bag; the accused is opposite, stooping and remorseful; each with his friends, cobblers, or lords; then the buzzing crowd behind, all with their grinning faces, their bewildered or kindling eyes. It is a genuine trial which they imagine, a trial like those they have seen before the justice, where they screamed or shouted as witnesses or interested parties, with their quibbling terms, their pros and cons, the scribblings, the sharp voices of the counsel, the stamping of feet, the crowding, the smell of their fellow-men, and so forth. The endless myriads of circumstances which accompany and influence every event, crowd round that event in their heads, and not merely the externals, that is, the visible and picturesque traits, the details of color and costume, but also, and chiefly, the internals, that is, the motions of anger and joy, the secret tumult of the soul, the ebb and flow of ideas and passions which are expressed by the countenance, swell the veins, make a man to grind his teeth, to clench his fists, which urge him on or restrain him. They see all the details, the tides that sway a man, one from without, another from within, one through another, one within another, both together without faltering and without ceasing. And what is this insight but sympathy, an imitative sympathy, which puts us in another's place, which carries over
1 See the trial of Vittoria Corombona, of Virginia in Webster, of Coriolanus and Julius Cæsar in Shakespeare.
their agitations to our own breasts, which makes our life a little world, able to reproduce the great one in abstract ? Like the characters they imagine, poets and spectators make gestures, raise their voices, act. No speech or story can show their inner mood, but it is the scenic effect which can manifest it. As some men invent a language for their ideas, so these act and mimic them; theatrical imitation and figured representation is their genuine speech : all other expression, the lyrical song of Æschylus, the reflective symbolism of Goethe, the oratorical development of Racine, would be impossible for them. Involuntarily, instantaneously, without forecast, they cut life into scenes, and carry it piecemeal on the boards; this goes so far that often a mere character becomes an actor, playing a part within a part; the scenic faculty is the natural form of their mind. Beneath the effort of this instinct, all the accessory parts of the drama come before the footlights and expand before our eyes. A battle has been fought; instead of relating it, they bring it before the public, trumpets and drums, pushing crowds, slaughtering combatants. A shipwreck happens; straightway the ship is before the spectator, with the sailors' oaths, the technical orders of the pilot. Of all the details of human life,” tavern-racket and statesmen's councils, scullion's talk and court processions, domestic tenderness and pandering,—none is too small or too lofty: these things exist in life-let them exist on the stage, each in full, in the rough, atrocious, or absurd, just as they are, no matter how. Neither in Greece, nor Italy, nor Spain, nor France, has an art been seen which tried so boldly to express the soul, and its innermost depths—the truth, and the whole truth.
How did they succeed, and what is this new art which tramples on all ordinary rules? It is an art for all that, since it is natural; a great art, since it embraces more things, and that more deeply than others do, like the art of Rembrandt and Rubens; but like theirs, it is a Teutonic art, and one whose every step is in contrast with those of classical art. What the Greeks and Romans, the originators of the latter, sought in everything, was charm and order. Monuments, statues, and paintings, the theatre, eloquence and poetry, from Sophocles to Racine, they shaped
1 Falstaff in Shakespeare; the queen in London, by Greene and Decker; Rosalind in Shakespeare.
2 In Webster's Duchess of Malfi there is an admirable accouchement scene.
all their work in the same mould, and attained beauty by the same method. In the infinite entanglement and complexity of things, they grasped a small number of simple ideas, which they embraced in a small number of simple representations, so that the vast confused vegetation of life is presented to the mind from that time forth, pruned and reduced, and perhaps easily embraced at a single glance. A square of walls with rows of columns all alike; a symmetrical group of draped or undraped forms; a young man standing up and raising one arm; a wounded warrior who will not return to the camp, though they beseech him : this, in their noblest epoch, was their architecture, their painting, their sculpture, and their theatre. No poetry but a few sentiments not very intricate, always natural, not toned down, intelligible to all; no eloquence but a continuous argument, a limited vocabulary, the loftiest ideas brought down to their sensible origin, so that children can understand such eloquence and feel such poetry; and in this sense they are classical.? In the hands of Frenchmen, the last inheritors of the simple art, these great legacies of antiquity undergo no change. If poetic genius is less, the structure of mind has not altered. Racine puts on the stage a sole action, whose details he adjusts, and whose course he regulates; no incident, nothing unforeseen, no appendices or incongruities; no secondary intrigue. The subordinate parts are effaced; at the most four or five principal characters, the fewest possible; the rest, reduced to the condition of confidants, take the tone of their masters, and merely reply to them. All the scenes are connected, and flow insensibly one into the other; and every scene, like the entire piece, has its order and progress. The tragedy stands out symmetrically and clear in the midst of human life, like a complete and solitary temple which limns its regular outline on the luminous azure of the sky. In England all is different. All that the French call proportion and fitness is wanting; Englishmen do not trouble themselves about them, they do not need them. There is no unity; they leap suddenly over twenty years, or five hundred leagues. There are twenty scenes in an act—we stumble without preparation from
1 This is, in fact, the English view of the French mind, which is doubtless a refinement, many times refined, of the classical spirit. But M. Taine has seemingly not taken into account such products as the Medea on the one hand, and the works of Aristophanes and the Latin sensualists on the other.—TR.
one to the other, from tragedy to buffoonery; usually it appears as though the action gained no ground; the different personages waste their time in conversation, dreaming, displaying their character. We were moved, anxious for the issue, and here they bring us in quarreling servants, lovers making poetry. Even the dialogue and speeches, which we would think ought particularly to be of a regular and continuous flow of engrossing ideas, remain stagnant, or are scattered in windings and deviations. At first sight we fancy we are not advancing, we do not feel at every phrase that we have made a step. There are none of those solid pleadings, none of those conclusive discussions, which every moment add reason to reason, objection to objection; people might say that the different personages only knew how to scold, to repeat themselves, and to mark time. And the disorder is as great in general as in particular things. They heap a whole reign, a complete war, an entire novel, into a drama; they cut up into scenes an English chronicle or an Italian novel: this is all their art; the events matter little; whatever they are, they accept them. They have no idea of progressive and individual action. Two or three actions connected endwise, or entangled one within another, two or three incomplete endings badly contrived, and opened up again; no machinery but death, scattered right and left and unforeseen: such is the logic of their method. The fact is, that our logic, the Latin, fails them. Their mind does not march by the smooth and straightforward paths of rhetoric and eloquence. It reaches the same end, but by other approaches. It is at once more comprehensive and less regular than ours.
It demands a conception more complete, but less consecutive. It proceeds, not as with us, by a line of uniform steps, but by sudden leaps and long pauses.
It does not rest satisfied with a simple idea drawn from a complex fact, but demands the complex fact entire, with its numberless particularities, its interminable ramifications. It sees in man not a general passion--ambition, anger, or love; not a pure quality—happiness, avarice, folly; but a character, that is, the imprint, wonderfully complicated, which inheritance, temperament, education, calling, age, society, conversation, habits, have stamped on every man; an incommunicable and individual imprint, which, once stamped in a man, is not found again in
other. It sees in the hero not only the hero, but the individual, with his manner of walking, drinking,