« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
A combination and a form indeed
To give the world assurance of a man. Cleopatra, questioning the messenger as to the features of the newly-made bride of Antony, inquires
Cleopatra.—Bear’st thou her face in mind? Is’t long or round?
The tenor of these quotations is obvious enough. A more cautious expression of opinion, however, occurs in “ Measure for Measure,” in which ability to read the countenance is referred to individual experience. The Duke says to the Provost in this play
There is written in your brow, Provost, honesty and constancy. If I read
There is a fair behaviour in thee, captain ;
With this thy fair and outward character.
In many's looks the false heart's history
Thy looks should nothing thence but sweetness tell.
A fellow by the hand of Nature marked
Quoted and signed to do a deed of shame. But Hubert repels the charge, and in language the justness of which is afterwards admitted by the King himself
Hubert.—You have slandered Nature in my form,
Than to be butcher of an innocent child.
Timon.–The painting is almost the natural man,
He is but outside.
Mark you this, Bassanio-
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath. The Duke of Gloster to the young Prince is in the same strain
No more can you distinguish of a man
Seldom, or never, jumpeth with the heart.
0, what a mansion have those vices got,
And all things turn to fair, that eyes can see ! But the climax of anti-physiognomy is reached in the maturer works of Shakspere's genius. Iago is the most accomplished of all the villains he has painted, and Iago’s countenance betrays to no one-not even to his wife—the secret workings of the soul within, while in Macbeth, King Duncan gives utterance to an expression which sums up the whole matter. Referring to the treacherous Cawdor, the King says
There's no art To find the mind's construction in the face. In “ The Tempest" occurs the only phrenological reference we can trace in the works
Turned to apes,
With forehead villanous low. In the use of such expressions as the foregoing, the obvious difficulty is to identify them unmistakeably with the man Shakspere himself, who, after all that can be said, may possibly have meant these to be taken as the opinions of other persons-his supposititious characters, rather than the results of his own observation. Yet we think there are good grounds for the belief that Shakspere himself appears in many of these expressions—in the “ Lucrece" at all events, where the opinion given can be referred to no one else. He has shrouded up his own personality in a marvellous manner, but in spite of all his skill—we should perhaps say his utter and entire abnegation of self-there are indications which can scarcely be misunderstood showing that the poet had, in this question of physiognomy, seen reason from experience to throw aside his first impres
sions. Were we able to arrange the works in anything like the exact order of their composition, we should then be in a position to watch the gradual evolution of Shakspere's genius, and to see how his opinion on different questions came to be changed—as with this subject of physiognomy, from the unqualified approval of the art in the “ Lucrece" to the absolute denial of its truth in “ Macbeth.” This, however, is a task yet to be competently essayed by some critic of the future.
Two minor personal characteristics of Shakspere we shall do little more than allude to. These are his approval of temperance and his love of music. From the abuse of strong drink is made to spring the main action of his great tragedy of 6 Othello," and every one must remember the picture of Old Adam in “ As You Like It," wherein a hale and hearty old age is given as the result of systematic temperance in youth. Let this personation be contrasted with that of Falstaff, for example, and no doubt can remain as to which system of living had the sanction and approval of Shakspere. His works, indeed, while they will be found to furnish numbers of texts for total abstinence-at the least for the utmost caution in the use of wine-yield us no bacchanalian effusions or any of the ordinary poetical glorifications of drinking and good fellowship.* That he himself was “ temperate in all things” and on all occasions it would be rash to assert, because it is a good divine that follows his own instructions,” but assuredly the probabilities lie in this direction, considering the enormous amount of brain work he was able to accomplish-and such work!
* The sharp contrast presented in this direction by such poets as Burns and Shakspere may be worthy of a passing illustration :
Than either schule or college;
An' pangs us fou o' knowledge. --The Holy Fair.
Wha first shall rise to gang awa',
A cuckold, coward loon is he;
He is the king amang us three.-Willie brewed a peck o' Maut..
SHAKSPERE. O thou invisible spirit of wine, if thou hast no name to be known by, let us call theo -devil!.
.. O, that men should put an enemy in their mouths, to steal away their brains ! that we should, with joy, revel, pleasure, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts !--Cassio in “ Othelio."
What's a drunken man like ? Like a drown'd man, a fool, and a madman, one draught above heat makos him & fool; the second mads him; and a third drowns him.-Twelfth Night.
Here's that which is too weak to be a sinner,
0, monstrous beast ! how like a swine he looks !
(Spoken by the Lord of drunken Sly.)
On Shakspere's knowledge and appreciation of music it would be a mere waste of time to dilate. The passages indicating both are numerous, and most of them will occur to the ordinary reader. On the humanising effects of music it is plain that he held the very strongest opinion, in one instance anathemising the man as fit for all evil deeds whose soul was not moved by the “ concord of sweet sounds ;” and making the very beasts of the field subject to the power of music. The extract is a familiar one, but it may still be given as a summary of Shakspere's views on a subject which is elsewhere in his works frequently alluded to. (“ Merchant of Venice.”)
For do but note a wild and wanton herd,
CHAPTER FOURTH-SHAKSPERE'S GENIUS
WHAT IS POETRY ?
It ive critici has becor a mom
It is not our purpose to offer any extended or comprehensive criticism on the merits of Shakspere as a literary artist. That has been frequently done by more eloquent and acute pens than for a moment we can pretend to wield. Our object rather is to point out some peculiarities of his genius which to a great extent have hitherto escaped attention. A few general considerations, however, in connection with the subject can scarcely be overlooked.
How productions of such transcendent merit should have been produced under the actual circumstances in which they were undoubtedly produced, is most difficult to make outso difficult that it will probably for ever remain amongst the mysteries of literature and of that human soul of which writing is the common outward expression. To work for the stage in Shakspere's days was by no means reckoned a reputable profession. The theatre itself remained in a very mean condition. It was occasionally attached to publichouses, was without scenery, sometimes without protection from the weather; above all, was everywhere deprived of the humanising and refining influence of the softer sexfor woman did not appear on the stage as an actress till nearly half a century after the death of Shakspere—and it was for the most part frequented by a boorish and uneducated rabble, who came to the place simply to be amused. *
* Regarding the ancient theatre, Mr Staunton writes as follows in his modest and sensible essay “Some Account of the Life of Shakspere :"-" We are not very intimately acquainted with the details of its structure, but the interior economy appears to have resembled that of the old inn yards, and it was evidently provided with different accommodation to suit different classes of visitors. There were tiers of galleries or scaffolds, and small rooms beneath, answering to the modern boxes. There was the pit, as it was called in the private theatres, or yard, as it was named at the public ones. In the former, spectators were provided with seats: in the latter, they were obliged to stand throughout the performance. The critics, wits, and gallants were allowed stools upon the stage, for which the price was sixpence or a shilling each, according to the eligibility of the situation, and they were attended by pages, who supplied them with pipes and tobacco; smoking, drinking ale, playing cards, and eating nuts and apples, always forming a portion of the entertainment at our early theatres.
“ The stage appliances were extremely simple. At the back of the stage there was a permanent balcony, about eight feet from the platform, in which scenes supposed to take place on towers or upper chambers were represented. Suspended in front of it were curtains, and these were opened or closed as the performance required. The sides and back of the stage, with the exception of that part occupied by the balcony, were