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Scene IV.-Without the castle.
Enter Rosse and an OLD MAN.
Hath trifled former knowings, &c., &c.—Macb., ii. 4. The following elicits from Dr. Johnson the remark that “it is not easy to assign a reason why a nameless character should be introduced here ; ” but we believe that our consummate dramatist did so to give the effect of wide-spread discontent and disaffection, and that this “ lord” is but one of many who think thus abhorringly of the usurping
tyrant.” This brief but significant scene is excellently calculated to denote Long Time and the steady growth of popular indignation, with determination to obtain rescue from intolerable oppression :
Scene VI.-Forres. A room in the palace.
Enter LENOx, and another LORD.
Which can interpret farther, &c., &c.,-Ibid., iii. 6. By the following, Shakespeare contrives to show the influence of passing events upon the mind of Hamlet, as affecting his task of avenging his father's death ; the share they have in urging him to fulfil it promptly, the reasoning they induce, and the resolves they inspire :
SCENE IV.-A plain in Denmark.
Enter FortinBRAS, and Forces, marching.
Enter HAMLET, RosenCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, &c.
Cap. They are of Norway, sir, &c., &c.,-Hamlet, iv. 4. In the following two brief dialogues—one commencing a scene, and the other concluding a scene—the dramatist introduces current reports that acquaint the audience with coming events essential to the story, but which are not shown in action ; while he gives the concomitant effect of the impression they produce upon the public figuring in the play :
Edmund. Save thee, Curan.
Curan. And you, sir. I have been with your father, and given him notice that the Duke of Cornwall, and Regan his duchess, will be here with him to-night.
Edmund. How comes that?
Curan. Nay, I know not. You have heard of the news abroad; I mean the whispered ones, for they are yet but ear-kissing arguments ?
Edmund. Not I: pray you, what are they?
Edmund. Not a word.
Kent. Report is changeable. 'Tis time to look about; the powers of the kingdom approach apace.
Gentleman. The arbitrement is like to be bloody. Fare you well, sir.-Ibid., iv. 7.
Occasionally Shakespeare introduces short contrasting scenes; where a grotesque character or dialogue immediately precedes a deeply serious or profoundly tragic occurrence. The following picture of rough eagerness and excitement among the people, just before the gorgeous spectacle of the royal christening procession, aids in giving grandeur and solemnity to that pageant
SCENE III.—The palace yard. Noise and tumult within. Enter Porter and his Man. Porter. You 'll leave your noise anon, ye rascals, &c.-H. VIII., v. 3. The following bout of grinning waggery has been objected to as ill-judged and untimely even by Coleridge, who observes, “ It is difficult to understand what effect, whether that of pity or of laughter, Shakespeare intended to produce ; ” but, to our mind, the intention was to show how grief and gaiety, pathos and absurdity, sorrow and jesting, elbow each other in life's crowd; how the calamities of existence fall heavily upon some, while others, standing close beside the grievers, feel no jot of suffering or sympathy. Not only do we fail to perceive the want of harmony here ; we, on the contrary, feel it to be precisely one of those passing discords that produce richest and fullest effect of harmonious contrivance. The footboy Peter's eagerness to have his “merry dump" played to him while the musicians are conveniently in the house, though in the very hour of his young lady's death-the musicians loitering to bandy jokes with the footboy, secure their pay, and get a good dinner ere they go, are not merely in perfect keeping with the Nurse's heartlessness and selfishness in bidding Juliet renounce Romeo for Paris in order to secure her snug place in the rich Capulet's family; they also serve the purpose of bringing into higher relief the passionate grief of Romeo and his prodigal flinging away of life in order to join her he loves and has lost :
First Musician. Faith, we may put up our pipes, and be gone. . . . Enter Peter.
Peter. Musicians, O, musicians, “ Heart's ease, Heart's ease”: Oh, an you will have me live, play “ Heart's ease," &c.—R. & Jul., iv. 5.
In the same spirit of effective contrast—true to life and natural course—is the introduction of the following; and yet it has been strongly denounced, and Coleridge has gone so far as to affirm that it is not Shakespeare's writing. Reluctant as we are to differ with so illustrious an authority in imaginative writing as the author of “The Ancient Mariner” and “Christabel," we cannot help believing that it is not only Shakespeare's composition, but his maturely considered introduction at this point of the tragedy. Firstly, it serves to lengthen out Dramatic Time, which requires that the period from the king's retiring to rest—the dark hours for the commission of the murdershould be supposed to have elapsed ere the now entrance of Macduff to attend upon the king's awakening; and, secondly, its repulsively coarse humour serves powerfully to contrast, yet harmonise, with the base and gory crime that has been perpetrated. Shakespeare's subtleties of harmony in contrast are among his most marvellous powers; and we venture to think that this gross joking of the drunken Porter, with Macduft's unconscious joining in the fellow's ribaldry, while the
murdered king lies weltering in his blood, and the morning dawn is shedding its approaching light on the foul deed and the filthy talk alike, are among these subtleties:
Porter. Here's a knocking, indeed! ...
Enter MACDUFF and Lenox.
That you do lie so late ? &c.—Macb., ii. 3. Again, in the following, how grimly does the earthy gossip of the two grave-digging Clowns--and then the partly material talk, partly mournful moralising, of the prince and his friend concerning the skulls, merging into their almost light interchange of talk with the man who is heaving up the churchyard mould beside the very grave preparing for the woman of Hamlet's love-come in juxtaposition with the advancing funeral train. How it enhances the melancholy of the scene ! and what a homily it forms upon humanity and its unconsciousnesses, treading blindly upon the verge of all we hold most sacred and most dear! Surely this was felt and intended by the most consummate of dramatists; and it was not without design that he so ordained these contrasting scenes:
First Clown. Is she to be buried in Christian burial, that wilfully seeks her own salvation ?
Enter HAMLET and Horatio, &c.-Hamlet, v. 1. Certainly it was not without artistic intention that Shakespeare introduced the following piece of jester's levity immediately before Cassio's gravely anxious appeal, and the subsequent supremely serious scene of tragic interest—that scene which is unsurpassed in all dramatic literature for its skill in the display of human passions worked upon by diabolical insinuation and instigation:
Enter Cassio and some MUSICIANS.
Clown. Why, masters, have your instruments, &c.-Oth., iii. 1. And, in the following, there is the same visible intention of producing contrasted effect; the Clown's rustic obtuseness and grinning familiarity heightening the impression of mingled gorgeousness, voluptuousness, gloom, and imperial will, in the regal Cleopatra's coming death-hour:
Re-enter GUARD, with a Clown bringing in a basket.
This is the man.
[Exit GUARD. Hast thou the pretty worm of Nilus there,
That kills and pains not ? Clown. Truly, I have him: but I would not be the party that should desire you to touch him, for his biting is immortal ; those that do die of it, do seldom or never recover, &c., &c.-Ant. & C., v. 2.
COARSENESSES AND DELICACIES.
There are certain passages of gratuitous coarseness that have been preserved in most editions of Shakespeare's works, as being by possibility his; but we believe, from their irrelevant and tacked-on effect, that they are merely excrescences supplied by the actors of those parts wherein they occur; it having formerly been the custom of dramatists to leave passages thus open for filling in at discretion, or as occasion directed. [See Points LEFT FOR IMPROVISATION.] One of these occurs at the close of “ Troilus and Cressida ;"where Pandarus, left by himself, when Troilus has abruptly quitted him, continues the four rhymed lines of his speech with a trashy addition, that wears marvellously the appearance of an interpolation. Our opinion on this point is supported by the fact, that the general diction of the fifth act of this drama bears evident marks of weakness and non-Shakespearian style; as though he had left the concluding act in the manner he had found it written in an earlier drama on this subject, or had permitted the concluding eight scenes (for we believe the first three of act v. to be as certainly Shakespeare's as we doubt the latter ones) to be appended by some other hand approved by the players : or, even, they may have been supplied by the actors themselves. The addition to which we allude is moreover patched on to the previous portion of the speech by a line of introductory prose :Good traders in the flesh, set this in your painted cloths.
As many as be here of pander's hall,
Or, if you cannot weep, &c., &c.—Tr. & Cr., v. II. Another of these passages occurs in the tragedy of “ King Lear where, after the old king has gone with Kent into the hovel, the Fool utters a speech containing fourteen lines of rhymed ribaldry, which although retained in the folio is omitted in the quartos. This fact, together with the circumstance that the Fool's rhyming occurs after Lear has left the stage, suffice to condemn it as spurious: for Shakespeare's Fool utters his half-rambling, half-pertinent morsels for the sake of beguiling his old master's thoughts, and labouring " to outjest his heart-struck injuries ”; he does not stay behind to gabble trumpery by himself, addressed solely to the rain and wind :Fool. This is a brave night to cool a courtesan. I'll speak a prophecy ere I go.
When priests are more in word than matter ;
When nobles are, &c., &c.-Lear, iii. 2. We think that wherever there is marked irrelevancy or dramatic purposelessness in gross passages occurring in Shakespeare's plays, these may very confidently be believed to be none of his writing. In several instances where his contemporary playwrights would have made occasion for coarse expression, he has managed to word allusions with comparative decency; as witness the following two passages. In
the first, witty Sir John Falstaff hints at the swarming condition of Wart's ragged garments, thus :
I cannot put him to a private soldier, that is the leader of so many thousands.2 H. IV., ji. 2.
And in the second, a similar concomitant of a Bedlam beggar's clothing is thus conveyed
Lear. I 'll talk with this same learned Theban.
Edgar. How to prevent the fiend, and to kill vermin.-Lear, iii. 4. As to his delicacies of diction and sentiment, scores might be cited ; but, as single examples, we point to the reverie in “ All's Well," iv. 4. and the one in “Winter's Tale,” i. 2 (See SOLILOQUIES), for proof of what we affirm of his skill and refinement in delineating the mind's reverting to sacredly secret subjects of meditation. Also, we would instance such touches of exquisitely pure feeling and beauty as the following two. In the former, the answer of Leontes, instinct with tender memory of his wife and mysterious attraction towards his unknown daughter, excited by view of that face bearing likeness to the mother's, is singularly in contrast with the gross treatment of the subject in the counterpart passage of the original story whence Shake. speare derived his plot of this play :Paulina.
Sir, my liege,
I thought of her, Even in these looks I made.-W. T., v. 1. In the latter, the poet's skill, subtlety, and delicacy of expression, combined with voluptuous and imaginative description of the highest kind, are unparalleled. By his singular dexterity of writing in the following passage, the words “how dearly they do't” convey the impression of lachimo's picturing to himself for a passing moment how exquisitely those lips can kiss; while the next sentence gives the effect of its being “ her breathing" that the lips so “dearly” perform : thus sanctifying and preserving the loveliness beheld by the lawless intruder from the licence of even his very thought:
How bravely thou becomest thy bed, fresh lily!