Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

Beaumont and Fletcher the excellent mechanism, in juxta-position and succession, of talent.

Lit. Rem. II. 316.

MASSINGER
With regard to Massinger, observe,

1. The vein of satire on the times ; but this is not as in Shakespeare, where the natures evolve themselves according to their incidental disproportions, from excess, deficiency, or mislocation, of one or more of the component elements; but is merely satire on what is attributed to them by others.

2. His excellent metre-a better model for dramatists in general to imitate than Shakespeare'seven if a dramatic taste existed in the frequenters of the stage, and could be gratified in the present size and management, or rather mismanagement, of the two patent theatres. I do not mean that Massinger's verse is superior to Shakespeare's or equal to it. Far from it; but it is much more easily constructed and may be more successfully adopted by writers in the present day. It is the nearest approach to the language of real life at all compatible with a fixed metre. In Massinger, as in all our poets before Dryden, in order to make harmonious verse in the reading, it is absolutely necessary that the meaning should be understood ;when the meaning is once seen, then the harmony is perfect. Whereas in Pope and in most of the writers who followed in his school, it is the mechanical metre which determines the sense.

3. The impropriety, and indecorum of demeanour in his favourite characters, as in Bertoldo in the

Maid of Honour, who is a swaggerer, talking to his sovereign what no sovereign could endure, and to gentlemen what no gentleman would answer without pulling his nose.

4. Shakespeare's Ague-cheek, Osric, &c., are displayed through others, in the course of social intercourse, by the mode of their performing some office in which they are employed; but Massinger's Sylli come forward to declare themselves fools ad arbitrium auctoris, and so the diction always needs the subintelligitur (the man looks as if he thought so and so,') expressed in the language of the satirist, and not in that of the man himself:

Syli. You may, madam, Perhaps, believe that I in this use art To make you dote upon me, by exposing My more than most rare features to your view; But I, as I have ever done, deal simply, A mark of sweet simplicity, ever noted In the family of the Syllis. Therefore, lady, Look not with too much contemplation on me; If you do, you are in the suds.

Maid of Honour, Act i, Sc. 2.

The author mixes his own feelings and judgments concerning the presumed fool; but the man himself, till mad, fights up against them, and betrays, by his attempts to modify them, that he is no fool at all, but one gifted with activity and copiousness of thought, image and expression, which belong not to a fool, but to a man of wit making himself merry with his own character.

5. There is an utter want of preparation in the decisive acts of Massinger's characters, as in Camiola and Aurelia in the Maid of Honour. Why?

ymgenesid is te the heparative built Shake pepite

Because the dramatis personce were all planned each by itself. Whereas in Shakespeare, the play is syngenesia ; each character has, indeed, a life of its own, and is an individuum of itself, but yet an organ of the whole, as the heart in the human body. Shakespeare was a great comparative anatomist.

Hence Massinger and all, indeed, but Shakespeare, take a dislike to their own characters, and spite themselves upon them by making them talk like fools or monsters; as Fulgentio in his visit to Camiola (Act ii, Sc. 2). Hence too, in Massinger, the continued flings at kings, courtiers, and all the favourites of fortune, like one who had enough of intellect to see injustice in his own inferiority in the share of the good things of life, but not genius enough to rise above it, and forget himself. Beaumont and Fletcher have the same vice in the opposite pole, a servility of sentiment and a spirit of partizanship with the monarchical faction.

6. From the want of a guiding point in Massinger's characters, you never know what they are about. In fact they have no character.

7. Note the faultiness of his soliloquies, with connectives and arrangements, that have no other motive but the fear lest the audience should not understand him.

8. A play of Massinger's produces no one single effect, whether arising from the spirit of the whole, as in the As You Like It ; or from any one indisputably prominent character, as Hamlet. It is just * which you like best, gentlemen'!

9. The unnaturally irrational passions and strange whims of feeling which Massinger delights to draw, deprive the reader of all sound interest in the characters ;—as in Mathias in The Picture, and in other instances.

10. The comic scenes in Massinger not only do not harmonize with the tragic, not only interrupt the feeling, but degrade the characters that are to form any part in the action of the piece, so as to render them unfit for any tragic interest. At least, they do not concern, or act upon, or modify, the principal characters. As when a gentleman is insulted by a mere blackguard,—it is the same as if any other accident of nature had occurred, a pig run under his legs, or his horse thrown him. There is no dramatic interest in it.

I like Massinger's comedies better than his tragedies, although where the situation requires it, he often rises into the truly tragic and pathetic. He excels in narration, and for the most part displays his mere story with skill. But he is not a poet of high imagination ; he is like a Flemish painter, in whose delineations objects appear as they do in nature, have the same force and truth, and produce the same effect upon the spectator. But Shakespeare is beyond this ;– he always by metaphors and figures involves in the thing considered a universe of past and possible experiences ; he mingles earth, sea and air, gives a soul to everything, and at the same time that he inspires human feelings, adds a dignity in his images to human nature itself :

Full many a glorious morning have I seen Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye ; Kissing with golden face the meadows green, Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchymy, &c.

33rd Sonnet. Lit. Rem. I. 108–12.

The styles of Massinger's plays and the Samson Agonistes are the two extremes of the arc within

which the diction of dramatic poetry may oscillate. Shakespeare in his great plays is the midpoint. In the Samson Agonistes, colloquial language is left at the greatest distance, yet something of it is preserved, to render the dialogue probable : in Massinger the style is differenced, but differenced in the smallest degree possible, from animated conversation by the vein of poetry

T. T. Feb. 17, 1833.

« ПредишнаНапред »