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As who should say, I am Sir Oracle,
Gratiano's speech on the philosophy of love, and the effect of habit in taking off the force of passion, is as full of spirit and goud sense. The graceful winding up of this play in the fifth act, after the tragic business is despatched, is one of the happiest instances of Shakspeare's knowledge of the principles of the drama. We do not mean the pretended quarrel between Portia and Nerissa and their husbands about the rings, which is amusing enough, but the conversation just before and after the return of Portia to her own house, beginning, "llow sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank,” and ending “ Peace! how the moon sleeps with Endy. mion and would not be awaked." There is a number of beautiful thoughts crowded into that short space, and linked together by the most natural transitions.
When we first went to see Mr. Kean in Shylock, we expected to see, what we had been used to see, a decrepid old man, bent with age and ugly with mental deformity, grinning with deadly malice, with the venom of his heart congealed in the expressiva of his countenance, sullen, momse, gloomy, inflexible, brooding over one idea, that of his hatred, and fixed on one unalterable purpose, that of his revenge. We were disappointed, because we had taken our idea from other actors, not from the play. There is no proof there that Shylock is old, but a single line, " Bassanio and old Shylock, both stand forth,"_which does not imply that he is infirm with age--and the circumstance that he has a daughter marriagrable, whub des not imply that he is old at all. It would be too much to say that his body should be made crooked and deformed to answer to his mind, which is bewed down and warped with perjuliers and pawin. That he has but one idea, is not true; he has more ideas than any other per. son in the piece; and if he is intense and inveterate in the pur. suit of his purpose, he shows the utmost elasticity, vigor, and presence of mind, in the means of attaining it. But so rooted was our habitual impression of the part from seeing it caricatur. ed in the representation, that it was only from a careful perusal of the play itself that we saw our error. The stage is not in general the best place to study our author's characters in. It is too often filled with traditional common-place conceptions of the part, handed down from sire to son, and suited to the taste of the great vulgar and the small.—“ 'Tis an unweeded garden : things rank and gross do merely gender in it!" If a man of genius comes once in an age to clear away the rubbish, to make it fruitful and wholesome, they cry,“ 'Tis a bad school : it may be like nature, it may be like Shakspeare, but it is not like us.” Admirable critics !
THE WINTER'S TALE.
We wonder that Mr. Pope should have entertained doubts of the genuineness of this play. He was, we suppose, shocked (as a certain critic suggesis) at the Chorus, Time, kraping over st. teen years with his crutch between the third and fourth act, and at Antigonus's landing with the infant Perdita on the sea-ovast of Bohemia. These slips or blemishes, however, do not prove it not to be Shakspeare's; for he was as likely to fall into them as anybody; but we do not know anybuy bue himself who could produce the beauties. The stuff of which the tragic passion is composed, the romantic sweerness, the comic humor, are evidently his. Even the çrabbed and tortuous style of the speeches of Leontes, reasoning on his own jealousy, beset with doubts and fears, and entangled more and more in the thorny labyrinth, bears every mark of Shakspeare's peculiar manner of conveying the painful struggle of different thoughts and feelings, laboring for utterance, and almost strangled in the birth. For instance :
** Ha' not you seen, Camillo !
Flere Leontes is confunded with his passion, and does t»; know which way to turn himself, to give words to the anguish, rage, and apprehensun, which tug at his breast. It is only as he is worked up into a clearer conviction of his wrongs by insisting on the grounds of his unjust suspicions to Camillo, who irritates him by his opposition, that he bursts out into the following vehement strain of bitter indignation : yet even here his passion staggers, and is as it were oppressed with its own intensity.
“Is whispering nothing?
The character of Hermione is as much distinguished by its saint-like resignation and patient forbearance, as that of Paulina is by her zealous and spirited remonstrances against the injustice done to the queen, and by her devoted attachment to her mis. fortunes. Hermione's restoration to her husband and her child, after her long separation from them, is as affecting in itself as it is striking in the representation. Camillo, and the old shepherd and his son, are subordinate but not uninteresting instruments in the development of the plot, and though last, not least, comes Autolycus, a very pleasant, thriving rogue; and (what is the best feather in the cap of all knavery) he escapes with impunity in the end.
The Winter's Tale is one of the best-acting of our author's plays. We remember seeing it with great pleasure many years ago. It was on the night that King took leave of the stage, when he and Mrs. Jordan played together in the after-piece of the Wedding day. Nothing could go off with more eclat, with more spirit, and grandeur of effect. Mrs. Siddons played Hermione, and in the last scene acted the painted statue to the life -with true monumental dignity and noble passion ; Mr. Kem. ble in Leontes worked himself up into a very fine classical phrensy; and Bannister, as Autolycus, roared as loud for pity as a sturdy beggar could do who felt none of the pain he coun. terfeited, and was sound of wind and limb. We shall never see these parts so acted again ; or if we did, it would be in vain. Actors grow old, or no longer surprise us by their novelty. But true poetry, like nature, is always young; and we still read the courtship of Floricel and Perdita, as we welcome the return of spring, with the same feelings as ever
" FLORIZIL. Thou dearest Perdita,
PERDITA. O lady fortune,
Enter Shepherd, Clourn, Mopsa, DURCA, Screants ; wooh
POLITENES, and CAMILLO, disguised.
FLOREL. See, your guests approach :
SHEPHERD Fie, daughter! when my old wife liv'd, upon