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fullness of his vitality, and the magnifi- brought as a prisoner before Charles V., cence of his contempt for law. Whether and not only extorts the admiration of for good or bad, he is comparatively a his conqueror, but wins his liberty by a poor creature. He has developed an dignified avowal of his previous hostility, uneasy conscience, and even whilst and avoidance of any base compliance. affecting to defy the law, trembles at the The Duke shows himself to be a highthought of an approaching retribution. minded gentleman, and we are so far His boasts have a shrill, querulous note prepared to sympathize with him when in them. His creator does not fully exposed to the wiles of Francisco-the sympathize with his passion. Massinger Iago of the piece. But unfortunately cannot throw himself into the situation; the scene is not merely a digression in a and is anxious to dwell upon the obvious constructive sense, but involves a psymoral considerations which prove such chological inconsistency. The gallant characters to be decidedly inconvenient soldier contrives to make himself thor. members of society for their tamer neigh- oughly contemptible. He is represented bors. He is of course the more in ac- as excessively uxorious, and his passion cordance with a correct code of morali- takes the very disagreeable turn of postty, but fails correspondingly in dramatic humous jealousy. He has instructed force and brilliance of color. To exhibit Francisco to murder the wife whom he a villain, truly, even to enable us to real. adores in case of his own death during ize the true depth of his villany, one the war, and thus to make sure that she must be able for a moment to share his could not marry anybody else. On his point of view, and therefore to under- return, the wife, who has been informed stand the true law of his being. It is a by the treachery of Francisco of this very sound rule in the conduct of life, pleasant arrangement, is naturally rather that we should not sympathize with cool to him ; whereupon he fies into a scoundrels. But the morality of the rage and swears that he will poet, as of the scientific psychologist, is
Never think of curs'd Marcelia more. founded upon the unfinching veracity which sets forth all motives with abso- His affection returns in another scene, lute impartiality. Some sort of provis- but only in order to increase his jeal. ional sympathy with the wicked there ousy, and on hearing Francisco's slander must be, or they become mere impossi- he proceeds to stab his wife out of hand. ble monsters or the conventional scare- It is the action of a weak man in a pascrows of improving tracts.
sion, not of a noble nature tortured to This is Massinger's weakest side. His madness. Finding out his mistake, he of villains want backbone, and his heroes course repents again, and expresses himare deficient in simple overmastering self with a good deal of eloquence which passion, or supplement their motives by would be more effective if we could forsome overstrained and unnatural crotch- get the overpowering pathos of the paret. Impulsiveness takes the place of allel scene in Othello. Much sympathy, vigor, and indicates the want of a vigor- however, is impossible for a man whose ous grasp of the situation. Thus, for whole conduct is so flighty, and so obviexample, the Duke of Milan, which is ously determined by the immediate decertainly amongst the more impressive mands of successive situations of the of Massinger's plays, may be described play, and not the varying manifestation as a variation upon the theme of Othello. of a powerfully conceived character, To measure the work of any other writer Francisco is a more coherent villain, and by its relation to that masterpiece is, of an objection made by Hazlitt to his apcourse, to apply a test of undue severity. parent want of motive is at least equally Of comparison, properly speaking, there valid against Iago; but he is of course can be no question. The similarity of but a diluted version of that superlative the situation, however, may bring out villain, as Marcelia is a rather priggish Massinger's characteristics.' The Duke, and infinitely less tender Desdemona. who takes the place of Othello, is, like The failure, however, of the central fighis prototype, a brave soldier. The ure to exhibit any fixity of character is most spirited and effective passage in the real weakness of the play; and the the play is the scene in which he is horrors of the last scene fail to atone for the want of the vivid style which reveals forced catastrophes are common, if an “intense and gloomy mind.”
clumsy enough. But there is something This kind of versatility and impulsive- malleable in the very constitution of ness of character is revealed by the curi- Massinger's characters. They repent ous convertibility-if one may use the half way through the performance, and word-of his characters. They are the see the error of their ways with a facility very reverse of the men of iron of the which we could wish to be imitated in previous generation. They change their common life. The truth seems to be state of mind as easily as the characters that Massinger is subject to an illusion of his contemporary drama put on dis- natural encugh to a man who is more of guises. We are often amazed at the the rhetorician than the seer. He fansimplicity which enables a whole family cies that eloquence must be irresistible. to accept the brother and father to whom He takes the change of mood produced they have been speaking ten minutes by an elevated appeal to the feelings for before as an entire stranger, because he a change of character. Thus, for examhas changed his coat or talks broken ple, in the Picture—a characteristic English. The audience must have been though not a very successful play-we easily satisfied in such cases; but it re- have a story founded upon the temptaquires almost equal simplicity to accept tions of a separated husband and wife. some of Massinger's transformations. The husband carries with him a magical In such a play as the Virgin Martyr, a picture, which grows dark or bright acreligious conversion is a natural part of cording to the behavior of the wife, the scheme. Nor need we be surprised whom it represents. The husband is at the amazing facility with which a fair tempted to infidelity by a queen, herself Mahommedan is converted in the Rene- spoilt by the flatteries of an uxorious gado by the summary assertion that the husband; and the wife by a couple of * juggling prophet” is a cheat and taught courtiers, who have all the vices of a pigeon to feed in his ear. Can there Fletcher's worst heroes without any of be strength, it is added, in that religion their attractions. The interest of the which allows us to fear death ? "This play, such as it is, depends upon the vais unanswerable,” exclaims the lady, rying moods of the chief actors, who be“and there is something tells me I err come so eloquent under a sense of in my opinion.” This is almost as good wrong or a reflection upon the charms as the sudden thought of swearing eter- of virtue, that they approach the bounds nal friendship. The hardened villain of of vice, and then gravitate back to rethe first act in the same play falls into spectability. Everybody becomes perdespair in the third, and, with the help fectly respectable before the end of the of an admirable Jesuit, becomes a most play is reached, and we are to suppose useful and exemplary convert by the that they will remain respectable ever affifth. But such catastrophes may be re- terwards. They avoid tragic results by garded as more or less miraculous. The their want of the overmastering passions versatility of character is more singular which lead to great crimes or noble acwhen religious conversions are not in tions. They are really eloquent, but question. “I am not certain," says Phil- even more moved by their eloquence anax in the Emperor of the East :- than the spectators can be. They form
the kind of audience which would be A prince so soon in his disposition altered Was never heard nor read of.
most flattering to an able preacher, but
in which a wise preacher would put litThat proves that Philanax was not famil- tle confidence. And, therefore, besides iar with Massinger's plays. The dispo- the fanciful incident of the picture, they sition of princes and of subjects is there give us an impression of unreality. They constantly altered with the most satisfac- have no rich blood in their veins; and tory result. It is not merely that, as often are little better than lay figures taking happens elsewhere, the villains are sum- up positions as it may happen, in order marily forced to repent at the end of a to form an effective tableau illustrative of play, like Angelo in Measure for Meas- an unexceptionable moral. ure, in order to allow the curtain to fall There is, it is true, one remarkable upon a prospect of happiness. Such exception to the general weakness of
Massinger's characters. The vigor with Hazlitt says, Massinger's villains-and which Sir Giles Overreach is set forth he was probably thinking especially of has made him the one well-known figure Overreach and Luke in A City Madamin Massinger's gallery, and the New appear like drunkards or madmen His Way to Pay Old Debts showed in conse- plays are apt to be a continuous declaquence more vitality than any of his mation, cut up into fragments, and asother plays. Much praise has been giv- signed to the different actors; and the en, and rightly enough, to the originality essential unfitness of such a method to and force of the conception. The con- dramatic requirements needs no elaboventional miser is elevated into a great rate demonstration. The villains will man by a kind of inverse heroism, and have to denounce themselves, and will made terrible instead of contemptible. be ready to undergo conversion at a moBut it is equally plain that here, too, ment's notice in order to spout openly Massinger fails to project himself fairly on behalf of virtue as vigorously as they into his villain. His rants are singularly have spouted in transparent disguise on forcible, but they are clearly what other behalf of vice. people would think about hin, not what There is another consequence of Mashe would really think, still less what he singer's romantic tendency, which is would say, of himself. Take, for exam more pleasing. The chivalrous ideal of ple, the very fine speech in which he re- morality involves a reverence for women, plies to the question of the virtuous no- which may be exaggerated or affected, bleman, whether he is not frightened by but which has at least a genuine element the imprecations of his victims : in it. The women on the earlier stage
have comparatively a bad time of it Yes, as rocks are When foaming billows split themselves against amongst their energetic companions. Their flinty sides; or as the moon is moved Shakespeare's women are undoubtedly When wolves, with hunger pined, howl at her most admirable and lovable creatures; brightness.
but they are content to take a subordiI am of a solid temper, and, like these,
nate part, and their highest virtue geneSteer on a constant course ; with mine own sword,
rally includes entire submission to the If called into the field, I can make that right
will of their lords and masters. Some, Which fearful enemies murmur at as wrong. indeed, have an abundant share of the Now, for those other piddling complaints masculine temperament, like Cleopatra Breath'd out in bitterness, as when they call
or Lady Macbeth ; but then they are by Extortioner, tyrant, cormorant, or intruder
no means model characters. Iago's deOn my poor neighbor's rights, or grand in- scription of the model woman is a cynicloser
cal version of the true Shakespearian Of what was common to my private use, Nay when my ears are pierced with widows' ing to him, or according to the modern
theory. Women's true sphere, accordcries, And undone orphans wash with tears my slang, is domestic lise; and, if circumthreshold,
stances force a Cordelia, an Imogen, a I only think what 'tis to have my daughter Rosalind, or a Viola, to take a more acRight honorable ; and 'tis a powerful charm Makes me insensible to remorse or pity,
tive share in life, they take good care to Or the least sting of conscience.
let us know that they have a woman's
heart under their male dress. The weakPut this into the third person ; read er characters in Massinger give a higher "he” for “I," and "his” for “my," and place to women, and justify it by a sentiit is an admirable bit of denunciation of ment of chivalrous devotion. The exa character probably intended as a copy cess, indeed, of such submissiveness is from life. It is a description of a wick- often satirised. In the Roman Aitor, the ed man from outside ; and wickedness Emperor of the East, the Duke of Milan, seen from outside is generally unreason- the Picture, and elsewhere, we have variable and preposterous. When it is con ous phases of uxorious weakness, which verted, by simple alteration of pronouns, suggest possible application to the Court into the villain's own account of himself, of Charles I. Elsewhere, as in the Maid the internal logic which serves as a pre- of Honor and the Bashful Lover, we text disappears, and he becomes a mere are called upon to sympathise with manmonster. It is for this reason that, as ifestations of a highflown devotion to
feminine excellence. Thus, the bashful creature of flesh and blood. When her lover, who is the hero of one of his char- worshippers turn unfaithful she must not acteristic dramatic romances, is a gentle look out for others. She may permit man who thinks himself scarcely worthy herself for once to return the affection of to touch his mistress's shoestring. On a worthy lover; but, when he fails, she the sight of her he exclaims
must not condescend again to love. As Moors salute
That would be to admit that love was a The rising sun with joyful superstition, necessity of her life, not a special act of I could fåll down and worship.-O my heart! favor for some exceptional proofs of Like Phæbe breaking through an envious cloud,
worthiness. Given the general tone of Or something which no simile can express,
sentiment, I confess that, to my taste, She shows to me; a reverent fear, but blended Massinger's solution has the merit, not With wonder and astonishment, does possess only of originality, but of harmony. It
may, of course, be held that a jilted lady When she condescends to speak to should, in a perfect healthy state of socihim, the utmost that he dares to ask is ety, have some other alternative besides liberty to look at her, and he protests a convent or an unworthy marriage. that he would never aspire to any higher Some people, for example, may hold that privilege. It is gratifying to add that he she should be able to take to active life follows her through many startling vicis- as a lawyer or a professor of medicine; situdes of fortunes in a spirit worthy of or they may hold that love ought not to this exordium, and of course is finally hold so prominent a part even in a persuaded that he may allow himself a woman's life, that disappointed passion nearer approach to his goddess. The should involve, as a necessary conseMaid of Honor has two lovers, who ac- quence, the entire abandonment of the cept a rather similar position. One of world. But, taking the romantic point them is unlucky enough to be always of view, of which it is the very essence making mischief by well-meant efforts to set an extravagant value upon love, and to forward her interest. He, poor man, remembering that Massinger had not is rather ignominiously paid off in down- heard of modern doctrines of woman's right cash at the end of the piece. His rights, one must admit, I think, that he more favored rival listens to the offers of really shows, by the best means in his a rival duchess, and ends by falling be- power, a strong sense of the dignity of tween two stools. He resigns himself to womanhood, and that his catastrophe is the career of a Knight of Malta, whilst more satisfactory than the violent death the Maid of Honor herself retires into a or the consignment to an inferior lover convent. Mr. Gardiner compares this which would have commended themcatastrophe unfavorably with that, of selves to most Elizabethan dramatists. Measure for Measure, and holds that it The same vein of chivalrous sentiment is better for a lady to marry a duke than gives a fine tone to some of Massinger's to give up the world as, on the whole, a other plays; to the Bondman, for exambad business. If, however, Isabella is ple, and the Great Duke of Florence, in better provided for by Shakespeare than both of which the treatment of lover's Camiola, The Maid of Honor," by devotion shows a higher sense of the Massinger, we must surely agree that the virtue of feminine dignity and purity Maid of Honor has the advantage of than is common in the contemporary poor Mariana, whose reunion with her stage. There is, of course, a want of hypocritical husband certainly strikes reality, an admission of extravagant moone as a questionable advantage. Her tives, and an absence of dramatic confate seems to intimate that marriage with centration, which indicate an absence of a hypocritical tyrant ought to be regard- high imaginative power. Chivalry, at its ed as better than no marriage at all. best, is not very reconcilable with comMassinger's solution is at any rate in mon sense; and the ideal hero is dividharmony with the general tone of chival- ed, as Cervantes shows, by very narrow rous sentiment. A woman who has been distinctions from the downright madman. placed upon a pinnacle by overstrained What was absurd in the more vigorous devotion cannot, consistently with her manifestations of the spirit does not vandignity, console herself like an ordinary ish when its energy is lowered, and the rhetorician takes the place of the poet. ple, and, with a certain reservation, to But the sentiment is still genuine, and the correctness of this special illustration. often gives real dignity to Massinger's But the reservation is an important one. eloquent speeches. It is true that, in After all, can anybody say honestly that apparent inconsistency with this excel- he is braced and invigorated by reading lence, passages of Massinger are even Massinger's plays ? Does he perceive more deeply stained than usual with re- any touch of what we feel when we have volting impurities. Not only are his bad been in company, say, with Sir Walter men and women apt to be offensive be- Scott; a sense that our intellectual atyond all bearable limits, but places might mosphere is clearer than usual, and that be pointed out in which even his virtu- we recognise more plainly than 'we are ous women indulge in language of the apt to do the surpassing value of manliindescribable variety. The inconsisten- ness, honesty, and pure domestic affeccy of course admits of an easy explana- tion? Is there not rather a sense that tion. Chivalrous sentiment by no means we have been all the time in an unnatuinvolves perfect purity, nor even a loftyral region, where, it is true, a sense of conception of the true meaning of purity. honor and other good qualities come in Even a strong religious feeling of a cer- for much eloquent praise, but where, tain kind is quite compatible with con- above everything, there is a marked absiderable laxity in this respect. Charles sence of downright wholesome common I. was a virtuous monarch, according to
Of course the effect is partly the admission of his enemies; but, as due to the region in which the old dramaKingsley remarks, he suggested a plot to tists generally sought for their tragic Shirley which would certainly not be situations. We are never quite at home consistent with the most lax modern no- in this fictitious cloudland, where the tions of decency. The court of which springs of action are strange, unaccounthe was the centre certainly included a able, and altogether different from those good many persons who might have at with which we have to do in the workonce dictated Massinger's most dignified a-day world. A great poet, indeed, sentiments and enjoyed his worst ribald- weaves a magic mirror out of these ry. Such, for example, if Clarendon's dream-like materials, in which he shows character of him be accurate, would have us the great passions, love, and jealousy, been the supposed "W. H.," the eldest and ambition, reflected upon a gigantic of the two Earls of Pembroke, with scale. But, in weaker hands, the characwhose family Massinger was so closely ters become eccentric instead of typical : connected. But it is only right to add his vision simply distorts instead of magthat Massinger's errors in this kind are nifying the fundamental truths of human superficial, and might generally be re- nature. The liberty which could be moved without injury to the structure of used by Shakespeare becomes dangerous his plays.
for his successors. Instead of a legitiI have said enough to suggest the gen- mate idealisation, we have simply an eral nature of the answer which would abandonment of any basis in reality. have to be made to the problem with The admission that Massinger is moral which I started. Beyond all doubt, it must therefore be qualified by the statewould be simply preposterous to put ment that he is unnatural; or, in other down Massinger as a simple product of words, that his morality is morbid. The corruption. He does not mock at gene- groundwork of all the virtues, we are rous, lofty instincts, or overlook their in- sometimes told, is strength and manlifluence as great social forces. Mr Ward A strong nature may be wicked, quotes him as an instance of the connec- but a weak one cannot attain any high tion between poetic and moral excel- moral level. The correlative doctrine in lence. The dramatic effectiveness of his literature is, that the foundation of all plays is founded upon the dignity of his excellence, artistic or moral, is a vivid moral sentiment; and we may recognise ' perception of realities and a masculine in him “a man who firmly believes in grasp of facts. A man who has that esthe eternal difference between right and sential quality will not blink the truths wrong." I subscribe most willingly to which we
illustrated every day the truth of Mr. Ward's general princi- around us. He will not represent vice