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endeavoured to show that it was one of our author's "earliest attempts in comedy." He derives the proof of this from “the poetry of this piece, glowing with all the warmth of a youthful and lively imagination, the many scenes which it contains of almost continual rhyme, the poverty of the fable, and want of discrimination among the higher personages.”
We wholly dissent from this opinion. The poetry of this piece, the almost continual rhyme, and even the poverty of the fable, are to us evidences of the very highest art having obtained a perfect mastery of its materials after years of patient study. Of all the dramas of Shakspere there is none more entirely harmonious than "A Midsummer-Night's Dream. All the incidents, all the characters, are in perfect subordination to the will of the poet. “ Throughout the whole piece,” says Malone, “ the more exalted characters are subservient to the interests of those beneath them.” Precisely so. An unpractised author-one who had not “a youthful and lively imagination ” under perfect control,when he had got hold of the Theseus and Hippolyta of the heroic ages, would have made them ultra-heroical. They would have commanded events, instead of moving with the supernatural influence around them in harmony and proportion. “Theseus, the associate of Hercules, is not engaged in any adventure worthy of his rank or reputation, nor is he in reality an agent throughout the play.” Precisely so. An immature poet, again, if the marvellous creation of Oberon, and Titania, and Puck could have entered into such a mind, would have laboured to make the power of the fairies produce some strange and striking events. But the exquisite beauty of Shakspere’s conception is, that, under the supernatural influence, “the human mortals” move precisely according to their respective natures and habits. Demetrius and Lysander are impatient and revengeful ; Helena is dignified and affectionate, with a spice of female error; Hermia is somewhat vain and shrewish. And then Bottom! Who but the most skilful artist could have given us such a character ? Malone says, that in Bottom, Shakspere intended to ridicule “the ambition of a theatrical candidate for applause.” Why, Bottom the weaver is the representative of the whole human race; the personification of that self-love which the simple cannot conceal, and the wise can with difficulty suppress.
There is, perhaps, no play of Shakspere that demands such an entire surrender of the mind to its poetical spirit. We believe that if any single composition were required to exhibit the power of the English language for purposes of poetry, that composition would be the 'Midsummer-Night's Dream.'