Изображения страниц


the first time its picture in the metaphors and cries of Charles Moor.* So here the characters struggle and roar, stamp on the earth, gnash their teeth, shake their fists against heaven. The trumpets sound, the drums beat, coats of mail file past, armies clash, men stab each other, or themselves; speeches are full of gigantic threats and lyrical figures; † kings die, straining a bass voice; now doth ghastly death with greedy talons gripe my bleeding heart, and like a harpy tires on my life.' The hero in Tamburlaine the Great is seated on a chariot drawn by chained kings; he burns towns, drowns women and children, puts men to the sword, and finally, seized with an inscrutable sickness, raves in monstrous outcries against the gods, whose hands a fict his soul, and whom he would fait de throne. There already is the pi ture of senseless pride, of blind and nurderous rage, which passing through many devastations, at iast arms against heaven itself. The overflowing of savage and immoderate instinct produces this mighty sounding verse, this prodigality of carnage, this display of splendors and exaggerated colors, this railing of demoniacal passions, this audacity of grand impiety. If in the dramas which succeed it, The Massacre at Paris, The Jew of Malta, the bom

and the ideas which hallow them, | Recall Schiller's Robbers, and how break forth impetuously. Marlowe, modern democracy has recognized for like Greene, like Kett,* is a skeptic, denies God and Christ, blasphemes the Trinity, declares Moses "a juggler," Christ more worthy of death than Barabbas, says that "yf he wer to write a new religion, he wolde undertake both a more excellent and more admirable wesbode," and "almost in every company he commeth, perswadeth. men to Athiesme."† Such were the rages, the rashnesses, the excesses which liberty of thought gave rise to in these new minds, who for the first time, after so many centuries, dared to walk unfettered. From his father's shop, crowded with children, from the straps and awls, he found himself studying at Cambridge, probably through the patronage of a great man, and on his return to London, in want, amid the license of the green-room, the low houses and taverns, his head was in a ferment, and his passions became excited. He turned actor; but having broken his leg in a scene of debauchery, he remained lame, and could no longer appear on the boards. He openly avowed his infidelity, and a prosecution was begun, which, if time had not failed, would probably have brought him to the stake. He made love to a drab, and in trying to stab his rival, his hand was turned, so that his own blade entered his eye and his brain, and he died, cursing and blaspheming. He was only thirty years old. Think what poetry could emanate from a life so passionate, and occupied in such a manner! First, exaggerated declamation, heaps of murder, atrocities, a pompous and furious display of tragedy bespatterea with blood, and parsions raised to a pitch of madness. All the foundations of the English stage, Ferrex and Porrex, Cambyses, Hieronymo, even the Pericles of Shak speare, reach the same height of extravagance, magniloquence, and horor. It is the first outbreak of youth.

[blocks in formation]


The chief character in Schiller's Robbers,

a virtuous brigand and redresser of wrongs.—
↑ For in a field, whose superficies
Is cover'd with a liquid purple veil,
And sprinkled with the brains of slaughter'd


My royal chair of state shall be advanc'd;
And he that means to place himself therein,
Must armed wade up to the chin in blood...
And I would strive to swim through pools

Or make a bridge of murder'd carcasses,
Whose arches should be fram'd with bonas
of Turks,

Ere I would lose the title of a king.

Tamburlaine, part ii. i. 3.

The editor of Marlowe's Works, Picke ing, 1826, says in his Introduction: "Both the matter and style of Tamburlaine, however, differ materially from Marlowe's over compositions, and doubts have more than once been suggested as to whether the play was properly assigned to him. We think hat Mar lowe did not write it." Dyce is of contrary opinion.-TR.


[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]


I fill'd the jails with bankrouts in a year, And with young orphans planted hospitals; And every moon made some or other mad, And now and then one hang himself for grief, Pinning upon his breast a long great scroll How I with interest tormented him." * All these cruelties he boasts of and chuckles over, like a demon who rejoices in being a good executioner, and plunges his victims in the very extremity of anguish. His daughter has "wo Christian suitors; and by forged etters he causes them to slay each other. In despair she takes the veil, and to avenge himself he poisons his daughter and the whole convent. Two friars wish to denounce him, then to convert him; he strangles the first, and jokes with his slave Ithamore, a cutthroat by profession, who loves his trade, rubs his hands with joy, and


"Pul. amain, Tis neatly done, sir; here's no print at al.. So, let him lean upon his staff; excellent! he stands as if he were begging of bacon." ↑ O mistress, I have the bravest, gravest, secret, subtle, bottle-nosed knave to my master, that ever gentleman had." ‡ The second friar comes up, and they accuse him of the murder :

"Barabas. Heaven bless me! what, a friar a


Marlowe's The few of Malta, ii. p. 275 et passim. Ibid. iv. p. 311.

↑ Ibid. iii. p. 291.

[blocks in formation]

touch me not.

Bar. The law shall touch you; we'll bu lead you, we :

'Las, I could weep at your calamity!"* We have also two other poisonings, an infernal machine to blow up the Turkish garrison, a plot to cast the Turkish commander into a well. Barabas falls into it himself, and dies in the hot cauldron,† howling, hardened, remorseless, having but one regret, that he had not done evil enough. These are the ferocities of the middle age, we might find them, to this day among the companions of Ali Pacha, among the pirates of the Archipelago; we retain pictures of them in the paintings of the fifteenth century, which repre sent a king with his court, seated calmly round a living man who is being flayed; in the midst the flayer on his knees is working conscientiously, verv careful not to spoil the skin. ‡

All this is pretty strong, you will say; these people kill too readily, and too quickly. It is on this very account that the painting is a true one For the specialty of the men of the time as of Marlowe's characters, is the abrupt commission of a deed; they are children, robust children. As a horse kicks out instead of speaking, so they pull out their knives instead of asking an ex

planation. Nowadays we hardly know what nature is; instead of observing it we still retain the benevolent prej. ulices of the eighteenth century; we only see it humanized by two centuries of culture, and we take its acquired calm for an innate moderation. The foundations of the natural man are irresistible impulses, passions, desires, greeds; all blind. He sees a woman, § thinks her beautiful; suddenly be rushes towards her; people try to restrain him, he kills these people, gluts his passion, then thinks no more of it, *Ibid. iv. p. 313.

t Up to this time, in England, poisoners were cast into a boiling cauldron,

In the Museum of Ghent.

See in the Jew of Malia the seduction of Ithamore, by Bellamira, a rough, but truly ad mirable picture.


not even let a dog approach the prince and rob them of their rank. Lancaste says of Gaveston :



Unless the sea cast up his shipwrack'd body.
He comes not back,
Warwick. And to behold so sweet a sight

There's none here but would run his horss :

They have seized Gaveston, and in-
tend to hang him "at a bough;" they
refuse to let him speak a single minute
with the king. In vain they are en-
treated; when they do at last consent,
they are sorry for it; it is a prey they
want immediately, and Warwick, seiz-
ing him by force," strake off his head
in a trench." Those are the men of
the middle age. They have the fierce-
ness, the tenacity, the pride of big,
well-fed, thorough-bred bulldogs.
is this sternness and impetuosity of
primitive passions which produced the
Wars of the Roses, and for thirty years
drove the nobles on each other's
swords and to the block.

save when at times a vague picture of a moving lake of blood crosses his brain and makes him gloomy. Sudden and extreme resolves are confused in his mind with desire; barely planned, the thing is done; the wide interval which a Frenchman places between the idea of an action and ne action itself is not to be found here.* Barabas conceived murders, and straightway murders were accomplished; there is no deliberation, no pricks of conscience; that is how he commits a score of them; his daughter leaves him, he becomes unatural, and poisons her; his con fidential servant betrays him, he disguises himself, and poisons him. Rage seizes these men like a fit, and then they are forced to kill. Benvenuto Cellini relates how, being offended, he tried to restrain himself, but was nearly suffocated; and that in order to cure himself, he rushed with his dagger upon his opponent. So, in Edward II., the nobles immediately appeal to arms; all is excessive and unforeseen: between two replies the heart is turned What is there beyond all these frenupside down, transported to the ex-zies and gluttings of blood? The idea tremes of hate or tenderness. Ed- of crushing necessity and inevitable ward, seeing his favorite Gaveston ruin in which every thing sinks and again, pours out before him his treas- comes to an end. Mortimer, brough ure, casts his dignities at his feet, gives to the block, says with a smile: him his seal, himself, and, on a threat" Base Fortune, now I see, that in thy wheel from the Bishop of Coventry, suddenly cries:

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]


There is a point, to which when men aspire, They tumble headlong down: that point I touch'd,

And, seeing there was no place to mount up

Why should I grieve at my declining fall?—
Farewell, fair queen; weep not for Mortimer.
That scorns the world, and, as a traveller,
Goes to discover countries yet unknown." ↑

Weigh well these grand words; they
are a cry from the heart, the profound
confession of Marlowe, as also of By.
ron, and of the old sea-kings. The
northern paganism is fully expressed
in this heroic and mournful sigh: it is
thus they imagine the world so long as
they remain on the outside of Chris
when men see in life, as they did, noth
tianity, or as soon as they quit it. Thus,
ing but a battle of unchecked passions,
and in death but a gloomy sleep, per
is no other supreme good but a day
haps filled with mournful dreams, there
of enjoyment and victory. They glu

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

What brilliant dreams, what desires, what vast or voluptuous wishes, worthy of a Roman Cæsar or an eastern poet, eddy in this teeming brain! To satiate them, to obtain four-and-twenty years of power, Faustus gives his soul, without fear, without need of temptation, at the first outset, voluntarily, so sharp .s the prick within :

"Had I as many souls as there be stars, I'd give them all for Mephistophilis. By him I'll be great emperor of the world, And make a bridge thorough the moving air.. Why shouldst thou not? Is not thy soul thine own?" t

And with that he gives himself full swing he wants to know every thing, to have every thing: a book in which he can behc'd all herbs and trees which grow pon the earth; another in which shall be drawn all the constellations and planets; another which shall bring him gold when he wills it, and "the fairest courtezans: " another which summons 66 men in armour ready to execute his commands, and which holds "whirlwinds, tempests, thunder and lightning" chained at his disposa. He is like a child, he stretches out his hands for every thing shining; then grieves to think of hell, then lets himself be diverted by shows:

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

"Faustus. O this feeds my soul!

Lucifer. Tut, Faustus, in hell is all man ner of delight.

Faustus. Oh, might I see hell, and retura again,

How happy were I then!". . .* He is conducted, being invisible, over the whole world: lastly to Rome amongst the ceremonies of the Pope's court. Like a schoolboy during a holi. day, he has insatiable eyes, he forgets every thing before a pageant, he amuses himself in playing tricks, in giving the Pope a box on the ear, in beating the monks, in performing magic tricks before princes, finally in drinking, feasting, filling his belly, deadening his thoughts. In his transport he become an atheist, and says there is no hell, that those are "old wives' tales." Then suddenly the sad idea knocks at the gates of his brain.

"I will renounce this magic, and repent... My heart's so harden'd, I cannot repent. Scarce can I name salvation, faith, or heaven,

But fearful echoes thunder in mine ears, 'Faustus, thou art damn'd!' then rds, and knives,

Poison, guns, halters, and envenom'd steel
Are laid before me to despatch myself;
And long ere this I should have one the

Had not sweet pleasure conque, d deep despair.

Have not I made blind Homer sins to me
Of Alexander's love and Enon's death?
And hath not he, that built the walls of

With ravishing sound of his melodious harp
Made music with my Mephistophiles?
Why should I die, then, or basely despair >
I am resolv'd; Faustus shall ne'er repent.-
Come Mephistophilis, let us dispute again,
And argue of divine astrology,

Tell me, are there many heavens above the moon?

Are all celestial bodies but one globe, As is the substance of this centric earth i." ↑ "One thing ... let me crave of thee To glut the longing of my heart's desire. Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships,


And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss!
Her lips suck forth my soul: see, where

Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again
Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips
And all is dross that is not Helena. . . .
O thou art fairer than the evening air

Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars! " + 'Oh, my God, I would weep! but the + Ibid. p. 37.

Ibid. p. 43. ↑ bid. p. 75.

[blocks in formation]

Let Faustus live in hell a thousand years,
A hundred thousand, and at last be sav'd.
It strikes, it strikes.


Oh soul, be chang'd into little water-drops, And fall into the ocean, ne'er be found! " + 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 Shakspeare what Perugino was to Raphael.

[blocks in formation]


consistency; the characters cease to move all of a piece, the drama is nc 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 a 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, place, they see the event, whatever it and how were they born? In the first be, and they see it as it is; I mean with its persons and details, beautiful that they have it within themselves, and ugly, even dull and grotesque. If it is a trial, the judge is there, in their minds, in his place, with his physiog nomy 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 fel low-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

See the trial of Vittoria Corombona, Vir ginia in Webster, of Coriolanus aÍ Julius Cæsar in Shakspeare.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »