Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

part of the first act he considered to be spurious, as well as the second and fourth scenes of the third act, not a line of which could have flowed from a mind like Shakspeare's. But the soliloquy of Falconbridge in that act, and the speech of the same personage that concludes the second, were stamped with the impress of the mighty master. The rest of the play, he had no doubt, was genuine, not merely from the language, which was not always the surest test, but from the spirit and animation with which the characters are sustained.

I asked him what he thought of Richard the Second ? He read a note he had written upon that play, in which he had calculated that not more than one half was written by Shakspeare. The rest, he said, had been retained from the old play of the same name, noticed by Camden, and Lord Bacon. It is astonishing," he remarked, "how little this part of the subject has been attended to by the editors. Pope rejected the rhyming couplets, as not proceeding at all, or with very few exceptions, from the hand of Shakspeare; but there his suspicions about the play stopped. He referred the striking disparity in this and in other plays, to the inequality of the poet's genius. But Shakspeare could not, unless by an intellectual impossibility, descend to low prosaic insipidity ;—such trash, for instance, as the whole of the last two acts of Richard the Second. Yet, how beautifully are these acts enamelled, now and then, by Shakspeare; par. ticularly in the entry of Bolingbroke into London, and his complaint of his son's disorderly conduct. I had great difficulty," continued Kemble, “in convincing George Steevens that the garden scene, at the conclusion of the third act, was not Shakspeare's. I read it over to him. He would not feel that it was spurious. Finding, therefore, that it was of no use appealing to his taste, I made use of a collateral argument, which produced instant conviction. It was this.—In all his historical plays, Shakspeare had the good sense and judgment never to deviate from the chronicles. To this Steevens fully assented. Now, at the period represented in the play, the nominal queen was a child of only ten years of age, the daughter of Charles the Sixth of France; whereas, through the whole of this scene, by a gross blunder, she is confounded with the former queen, Anne of Bohemia. A similar instance of the historical accuracy of Shakspeare, compared with the writers of some of the plays that he retouched, occurs, I told Steevens, in the second part of Henry the Sixth, the greater part of which is genuine. There, the hereditary title of the Duke of York is stated with the greatest perspicuity; whereas, in the first part, which the ablest critics have unanimously rejected, as not containing a single line from the pen of Shakspeare, the claim of the House of March, through which that of York was derived, is enveloped in confusion and absurdity.”

Kemble seemed to think lightly of Warburton, as a commentator on Shakspeare. “ One of his emendations is, however,” said he, "singularly happy, and the first time I played King John I adopted it, but I got hissed for it. It is in the passage of John's dialogue with Hubert. The old editions have it thus, and it remained so in the prompt-book even in Garrick's time, who did not see the propriety of the emendation:

• If the midnight bell Did with its iron tongue and brazen mouth Sound on unto the drowzy race of night.'

Now, for sound on, which is nonsense, Warburton reads sound one; and it is a strong corroboration of the reading that the ghost in Hamlet makes his appearance, the bell then beating ONE. Yet, some fellows in the pit, consisting of a few lawyer's clerks, thinking that, by virtue of having paid their money at the pit-door, they had a legitimate title to become critics, tried to scout the reading, as being a wanton innovation of my own." This circumstance reminded me of his pronunciation of the word aches as a dissyllable, and I ventured to mention it to him. “My reason for doing so," he replied, " is unanswerable. The word was, in Shakspeare's age, always pronounced with two syllables. I used it as a dissyllable where the verse would have been spoiled had I not done so. It occurred in the Tempest, and you will find it in the passage where Prospero is rebuking Caliban for his laziness in bringing in wood.

[ocr errors]

• Fill all thy bones with aches; make thee roar

&c. &c. &c.

I am aware that, in detailing these conversations, I am digressing for a while from the BeefSteak Club; but the remarks of an intelligent, and naturally strong mind, which supplied the deficiencies of an unsystematic education, by its native stores of thinking, and augmented them by constant study and observation—the remarks, too, of a man, who, next to Garrick, has contributed more to raise the profession of the stage to the honourable estimation which it now enjoys, by the correctness of his life, and the diligence with which he cultivated his art, than any other player, ancient or modern, will, I trust, obtain pardon for the digression. The moments we are permitted to pass with the good and the great, in the respective generations which they illustrate, are too fleeting and transitory not to render us willing to retain, if we can, what are

« AnteriorContinuar »