Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ance of it. Though he has here given “ to airy nothing a local habitation and a name," yet that part which is only the fantastic creation of his mind, has the same palpable texture, and coheres “semblably" with the rest. As the preternatural part has the air of reality, and almost haunts the imagination with a sense of truth, the real characters and events partake of the wildness of a dream. The stately magician, Prospero, driven from his dukedom, but around whom (so potent is his art) airy spirits throng numberless to do his bidding; his daughter Miranda (" worthy of that name"), to whom all the power of his art points, and who seems the goddess of the isle ; the princely Ferdinand, cast by fate upon the haven of his happiness; the delicate Ariel; the savage Caliban, half brute, half demon; the drunken ship's crew-are all connected parts of the story, and could not be spared from the place they fill. Even the local scenery is of a piece and character with the subject. Pros. pero's enchanted island seems to have risen up out of the sea ; the airy music, the tempest-tost vessel, the turbulent waves, all have the effect of the landscape back.ground of some fine picture. Shakspeare's pencil is to use an allusion of his own) "like the dyer's hand, subulued to what it works in.” Every. thing in him, though it partakes " of the liberty of wit," is also subjected to "the law" of the understanding. For instance, even the drunken sailors share, in the disorder of their minds and bodies, in the tumult of the elements, and seem on shore to be as much at the mercy of chance as they were before at the mercy of the winds and waves. These fellows, with their sea-wit, are the least to our taste of any part of the play: but they are as like drunken sailors as they can be, and are an indirect foil to Caliban, whose figure acquires a classical dignity in the comparison.

The character of Caliban is generally thought (and justly so) to be one of the author's masterpieces. It is not indeed pleasant to see this character on the stage way more then it is to see the god Pan personated there. But in itsekin one of the wildest and most abstracted of all the pea.e's she caotets; whose deformity, whether of body or rind, is reden wy the power and truth of the imagination displayed in it. le in the

essence of grossness, but there is not a particle of vulgarity in it. Shakspeare has described the brutal mind of Caliban in contact with the pure and original forms of nature ; the character grows out of the soil where it is rooted, uncontrolled, uncouth, and wild, uncramped by any of the meannesses of custom. It is “of the earth, earthy.” It seems almost to have been dug out of the ground, with a soul instinctively superadded to it, answering to its wants and origin. Vulgarity is not natural coarseness, but conventional coarseness, learnt from others, contrary to, or without an entire conformity of natural power and disposition; as fashion is the common-place affectation of what is elegant and refined without any feeling of the essence of it. Schlegel, the admirable German critic on Shakspeare, observes that Caliban is a poetical character, and “always speaks in blank verse.” He first comes in thus:

* CALIBAN. As wicked dew as e'er my mother brush'd
With raven's feather from unwholesome fen,
Drop on you both : a south-west blow on ye,
And blister you all o'er !

PROSPERO. For this, be sure, to-night thou shalt have cramps,
Side stitches that shall pen thy breath up; urchins
Shall for that vast of night that they may work,
All exercise on thee: thou shalt be pinch'd
As thick as honey-combs, each pinch more stinging
Than bees that made 'em.

CALIBAN. I must eat my dinner.
This island's mine by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou tak'st from me. When thou camest first,
Thou strok’dst me, and mad'st much of me; would'st give me
Water with berries in 't; and teach me how
To name the bigger light and how the less
That burn by day and night'; and then I loved thee,
And show'd thee all the qualities oth' isle,
The fresh springs, brine pits, barren place and fertile :
Curs'd be I that I did so! All the charms
or Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you !
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Who first was mine own king; and here you sty me
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me
The rest o'th' island."

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

And again, he promises Trinculo his services thus, if he will free him from his drudgery.

" I'll show thee the best springs; I'll pluck thee berries,
I'll fish for thee, and get thee wood enough.
I pr’ythee let me bring thee where crabs grow.
And I with my long nails will dig thee pig-nuts :
Show thee a jay's nest, and instruct thee how
To share the nimble marmozet : I'll bring thee
To clust'ring filberds; and sometimes I'll get thee
Young scamels from the rock."

In conducting Stephano and Trinculo to Prospero's cell, Cali. ban shows the superiority of natural capacity over greater knowledge and greater folly; and in a former soene, when Ariel frightens them with his music, Caliban to encourage them accounts for it in the eloquent poetry of the senses.

_** Be not afraid, the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twanging instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voice,
That if I then had waked after long sleep,
Would make me sleep again; and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show ruches
Ready to drop upon me: when I wak'd
I cried to dream again."

This is not more beautiful than it is true. The poet here shows us the savage with the simplicity of a child, and makee the strange monster amiable. Shakspeare had to paint the human animal rude and without choice in its pleasures, but not without the sense of pleasure or some germ of the affections. Master Bamardine, in Measure for Measure, the savage of civilized life, is an admirable philosophical counterpart to Cali. ban.

Shakspeare has, as it were by design, drawn off from Caliban the elements of whatever is ethereal and refined, to compound them in the unearthly mould of Ariel. Nothing was ever more finely conceived than this contrast between the material and the spiritual, the gross and delioate. Ariel is imaginary power, the swiftness of thought personified. When told to make good speed by Prospero, he says, “I drink the air before me." This is something like Puck's boast on a similar occasion, “I'll put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes.” But Ariel differs from Puck in having a fellow feeling in the interests of those he is employed about. How excellent is the following dialogue between him and Prospero!

“ ARIEL. Your charm so strongly works 'em,
That if you now beheld them, your affections
Would become tender.

PROSPERO. Dost thou think so, spirit ?
ARIEL. Mine would, sir, were I human.

PROSPERO. And mine shall.
Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
of their afflictions, and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply,
Passion'd as they, be kindlier moved than thou art?”

It has been observed that there is a peculiar charm in the songs introduced in Shakspeare, which, without conveying any distinct images, seem to recall all the feelings connected with them, like snatches of half-forgotten music heard indistinctly at intervals. There is this effect produced by Ariel's songs, which seem to sound in the air, and as if the person playing them were invisible. We shall give one instance out of many of this general power.

"! "Enter FERDIN AND; and Ariel invisible, playing and singing. 1.

ARIEL'S SONG.

Come unto these yellow sands,
And then take hand3;
Curt'sied when you have, and kiss'd
(The wild waves whist);
Foot it featly here and there;
And sweet sprites the burden bear.

[Burden dispersedly.
Hark, harki bowgh-wowgh: the watch-dogs bark, Bowgh-

wowgh.
ARIEL, Hark, hark! I hear

The strain of strutting chanticleer

Cry cock-a-doodle-doo.
FERDINAND. Where should this masic be ? in air or earth'
It sounds no more : and sure it waits upon
Some god o'th' island. Sitting on a bank
Weeping against the king my father's wreck,
This music crept by me upon the waters,
Allaying both their fury and my passion
With its sweet air; thence I have follow'd it,
Or it hath drawn me rather :—but 'tis gone. -
No, it begins again.

[graphic]

ARIEL'S SONG.

Full fathom five thy father lies,

or his bones are coral made :
Those are pearls that were his eyes,

Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea change,
Into something rich and strange,
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell —
Hark! now I hear them, ding dong bell.

(Burden ding-dong.
FERDINAND. The ditty does remember my drown'd father.
This is no mortal business, nor no sound
That the earth owns : I hear it now above me."

The courtship between Ferdinand and Miranda is one of the chief beauties of this play. It is the very purity of love. The pretended interference of Prospero with it heightens its interest, and is in character with the magician, whose sense of preternatural power makes him arbitrary, tetchy, and impatient of opposition.

The TEMPEST is a finer play than the Midsummer Night's Dream, which has sometimes been compared with it; but it is not so fine a poem. There are a greater number of beautiful passages in the latter. Two of the most striking in the TEXTEST are spoken by Prospero. The one is that admirable one when the vision which he has conjured up disappears, beginning “The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces," &c., which has been so often quoted, that every school boy knows it by heart: the other is that which Prospero makes in abjuring his art:

« AnteriorContinuar »