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ed them on the boards of Covent-garden or DruryJane, but not on the heath at Foris, and as if they did not believe what they had seen. The Witches of MACBETH indeed are ridiculous on the modern stage, and we doubt if the Furies of Eschylus would be more respected. The progress of manners and knowledge has an influence on the stage, and will in time perhaps destroy both tragedy and comedy. Filch's picking pockets in the Beggar's Opera is not so good a jest as it used to be: by the force of the police and of philosophy, Lillo's murders and the ghosts in Shakspeare will become obsolete. At last, there will be nothing left, good nor bad, to be desired or dreaded, on the theatre or in real life. A question has been started with respect to the originality of Shakspeare's Witches, which has been well answered by Mr. Lamb in his notes to the "Specimens of Early Dramatick Poetry."
Though some resemblance may be traced between the charms in MACBETH, and the incantations in this play, (the Witch of Middleton) which is supposed to have preceded it, this coincidence will not detract much from the originality of Shakspeare. His Witches are distinguished from the Witches of Middleton by essential differences. These are creatures to whom man or woman plotting some dire mischief might resort for occasional consultation. Those originate deeds of blood, and begin bad impulses to men. From the moment that their eyes first meet with Macbeth's he is spell bound. That meeting sways his destiny. He can never break the fascination. These Witches can hurt the body;
those have power over the soul.--Hecate in Middleton has a son, a low buffoon: the hags of Shakspeare have neither child of their own, nor seem to be descended from any parent. They are foul anomalies, of whom we know not whence they are sprung, nor whether they have beginning or ending. As they are without human passions, so they seem to be without human relations. They come with thunder and lightning, and vanish to airy musick. This is all we know of them.-Except Hecate, they have no names, which heightens their mysteriousness. The names, and some of the properties which Middleton has given to his hags, excite smiles. The Weird Sisters are serious things. Their presence cannot co-exist with mirth. But, in a lesser degree, the Witches of Middleton are fine creations. Their power too is, in some measure, over the mind. They raise jars, jealousies, strifes, like a thick scurf o'er life."
JULIUS CAESAR was one of the three principal plays, by different authors, pitched upon by the celebrated Earl of Halifax to be brought out in a splendid manner by subscription, in the year 1707. The other two were the King and No King of Fletcher, and Dryden's Maiden Queen. There perhaps might be political reasons for this selection, as far as regards our author. Otherwise, Shakspeare's JULIUS CESAR is not equal, as a whole, to either of his other plays taken from the Roman history. It is inferiour in interest to Coriolanus, and both in interest and power to Antony and Cleopatra. It however abounds in admirable and affecting passages, and is remarkable for the profound knowledge of character, in which Shakspeare could scarcely fail. If there is any exception to this remark, it is in the hero of the piece himself. We do not much admire the representation here given of Julius Cæsar, nor do we think it answers to the portrait given of him in his Commentaries. He makes several vapouring and rather pedantick speeches, and does nothing. Indeed, he has nothing to do. So far, the fault of the character might be the fault of the plot.
The spirit with which the poet has entered at once into the manners of the common people, and the jealousies and heart-burnings of the different factions, is shewn in the first scene, when Flavius and Marullus, tribunes of the people, and some citizens of Rome, appear upon the stage.
"Flavius. Thou art a cobbler, art thou?
Cobbler. Truly, Sir, all that I live by, is the awl: I meddle with no tradesman's matters, nor woman's matters, but with al, I am indeed, Sir, a surgeon to old shoes; when they are in great danger, I recover them.
Flavius. But wherefore art not in thy shop to day? Why do'st thou lead these men about the streets?
Cobbler. Truly, Sir, to wear out their shoes, to get myself into more work. But indeed, Sir, we make holiday to see Cæsar, and rejoice in his triumph."
To this specimen of quaint low humour immediately follows that unexpected and animated burst of indignant eloquence, put into the mouth of one of the angry tribunes.
Wherefore rejoice !-What conquest brings
What tributaries follow him to Rome,
To grace in captive bonds his chariot wheels?
To hear the replication of your sounds,
And do you now put on your best attire?
Run to your houses, fall upon your knees,
Pray to the Gods to intermit the plague,
The well known dialogue between Brutus and Cassius, in which the latter breaks the design of the conspiracy to the former, and partly gains him over to it, is a noble piece of high minded declamation. Cassius's insisting on the pretended effeminacy of Cæsar's character, and his description of their swimming across the Tiber together, once upon a raw and gusty day," are among the finest strokes in it. But perhaps the whole is not equal to the short scene which follows when Cæsar enters with his train.
"Brutus. The games are done, and Cæsar is returning.
And he will, after his sour fashion, tell you
Brutus. I will do so; but look you, Cassius-
Being cost in conference by some senators.