Imágenes de páginas

though possessed of singular abilities, their conduct will be capricious. Glowing with the warmest affections, open, generous, and candid; yet, prone to inconstancy, they are incapable of lasting friendship. At length, by force of repeated indulgence, some one passion becomes habitual, occupies the heart, seizes the understanding, and, impatient of resistance or controul, weakens or extirpates every opposing principle: disappointment ensues: no passion remains to administer comfort: and the original sensibility which promoted this disposition, will render the mind more susceptible of anguish, and yield it a prey to despondency. We ought, therefore, to beware of limiting our felicity to the gratification of any particular passion. Nature, ever wise and provident, has endowed us with capacities for various pleasures, and has opened to us many fountains of happiness: let no tyrannous passion, let ' no rigid doctrine deter thee; drink of the streams, be moderate, and grateful.'





THE "Life and Death of King Richard "the Third" is a popular tragedy: yet the poet, in his principal character, has connected deformity of body with every vice that can pollute human nature. Nor are those vices disguised or softened. The hues and lineaments are as dark and as deeply impressed as we are capable of conceiving. Neither do they receive any considerable mitigation from the virtues of any other persons represented in the poem. The vices of Richard are not to serve as a foil

or a test to their virtues; for the virtues and innocence of others serve no other purpose than to aggravate his hideous guilt. In reality, we are not much attached by affection, admiration, or esteem, to any character in the tragedy. The merit of Edward, Clarence, and some others, is so undecided, and has such a mixture of weakness, as hinders us from entering deeply into their interest. Richmond is so little seen, his goodness is so general or unfeatured, and the difficulties he has to encounter are so remote from view, are thrown, if I may use the expression, so far into the back ground, and are so much lessened by concurring events, that he cannot, with any propriety, be deemed the hero of the formance. Neither does the pleasure we receive proceed entirely from the gratification of our resentment, or the due display of poetical justice. To be pleased with such


display, it is necessary that we enter deeply into the interest of those that suffer. But so strange is the structure of this tragedy, that we are less interested in the miseries of those that are of pressed, than we are

moved with indignation against the oppressor. The sufferers, no doubt, excite some degree of compassion; but, as we have now observed, they have so little claim to esteem, are so numerous and disunited, that no particular interest of this sort takes hold of us during the whole exhibition. Thus were the pleasure we receive to depend solely on the fulfilment of poetical justice, that half of it would be lost which arises from great regard for the sufferers, and esteem for the hero who performed the exploit. We may also add, that if the punishment of Richard were to constitute our chief enjoyment, that event is put off for too long a period. The poet might have exhibited his cruelties in shorter space, sufficient, however, to excite our resentment; and so might have brought us sooner to the catastrophe, if that alone was to have yielded us pleasure. In truth, the catastrophe of a good tragedy is only the completion of our pleasure, and not the chief cause of it. The fable, and the view which the poet exhibits of human nature, conducted through the whole performance, must produce our enjoyment. But in the

[ocr errors]

work now before us there is scarcely any fable; and there is no character of eminent importance, but that of Richard. He is the principal agent: and the whole tragedy is an exhibition of guilt, where abhorrence for the criminal is much stronger than our interest in the sufferers, or esteem for those, who, by accident rather than great exertion, promote his downfal. We are pleased, no doubt, with his punishment; but the display of his enormities, and their progress to this completion, are the chief objects of our attention. Thus Shakespeare, in order to render the shocking vices of Richard an amusing spectacle, must have recourse to other expedients than those usually practised in similar situations, Here, then, we are led to enquire into the nature of these resources and expedients: for why do we not turn from the Richard of Shakespeare, as we turn from his Titus Andronicus? Has he invested him with any charm, or secured him by some sacred talisman from disgust and aversion? The subject is curious, and deserves our attention.

We may observe in general, that the

« AnteriorContinuar »