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SCENERY AND COSTUME.
The localities which are represented in this age of Pericles, rich in art, as well as luxurious play are chiefly of such Athenian remains as and magnificent, was the period which immedibelong to the historical period of Alcibiades. ately preceded that of Timon; and it would, of
It may be sufficient for the Costume of this course, suggest the employment, in the repreplay to refer our readers to the 'Midsummer sentation of this drama, of great scenic splenNight's Dream.' The Elgin Marbles, in both dour. cases, furnish the principal authorities. The
The first edition of King Lear' was pub- | play was cut down by the editors; for ‘Lear,' lished in 1608; two other editions were without the omissions, is perhaps the longest published by Butter in the same year. It of Shakspere's plays, with the exception of is remarkable that a play of which three Hamlet.' But this theory would require us editions were demanded in one year should to assume, also, that the additions to the not have been reprinted till it was collected folio were made by the editors. These comin the folio of 1623. Whether 'Lear' was prise several such minute touches as none piratical, or whether a limited publication but the hand of the master could have superwas allowed, it is clear, we think, that by added. some interference the continued publication The story of 'Lear' belongs to the popuwas stopped.
lar literature of Europe. It is a pretty The text of the folio, in one material episode in the fabulous chronicles of Britain ; respect, differs considerably from that of the and whether invented by the monkish histoquartos. Large passages which are found in rians, or transplanted into our annals from the quartos are omitted in the folio: there some foreign source, is not very material. are, indeed, some lines found in the folio In the 'Gesta Romanorum,' the same story which are not in the quartos, amounting to is told of Theodosius, “a wise emperor in about fifty. These are scattered passages, the city of Rome.” not very remarkable when detached, but for Shelley, in his eloquent 'Defence of Poetry, the most part essential to the progress of the published in his ‘Posthumous Essays,' &c., action or to the development of character. has stated the grounds for his belief that the On the other hand, the lines found in the 'Lear' of Shakspere may sustain a comparison quartos which are not in the folio amount to with the masterpieces of the Greek tragedy. as many as two hundred and twenty-five; “The modern practice of blending comedy and they comprise one entire scene and one with tragedy, though liable to great abuse in or two of the most striking connected pas- ! point of practice, is undoubtedly an exten. sages in the drama. It would be easy to sion of the dramatic circle ; but the comedy account for these omissions, by the assump- should be, as in ‘King Lear,' universal, ideal, tion that in the folio edition the original and sublime. It is, perhaps, the intervention
of this principle which determines the jewels, unstrung and unpolished, yet so balance in favour of 'King Lear' against the dazzling in their disorder that I soon per'Edipus Tyrannus' or the 'Agamemnon,' or, ceived I had seized a treasure.” if you will, the trilogies with which they are There is only one mode in which such a connected; unless the intense power of the production as the 'Lear’ of Shakspere can choral poetry, especially that of the latter, be understood—by study, and by reverential should be considered as restoring the equi. reflection. The age which produced the librium. “King Lear,' if it can sustain that miserable parody of ‘Lear' that, till within comparison, may be judged to be the most a few years, had banished the 'Lear' of perfect specimen of the dramatic art existing Shakspere from the stage, was, as far as in the world.” We can understand this now. regards the knowledge of the highest efforts But if any writer before the commencement of intellect, a presumptuous, artificial, and of the present century, and indeed long therefore empty age. Tate was tolerated after, had talked of the comedy of 'Lear' as because Shakspere was not read. We have being "universal, ideal, and sublime," and arrived, in some degree, to a better judgment, had chosen that as the excellence to balance because we have learnt to judge more humbly. against "the intense power of the choral We have learnt to compare the highest works poetry” of Æschylus and Sophocles, he of the highest masters of poetry, not by the would have been referred to the authority of pedantic principle of considering a modern Voltaire, who, in his letter to the Academy, great only to the extent in which he is an describes such works of Shakspere as form- imitator of an ancient, but by endeavouring ing "an obscure chaos, composed of murders to comprehend the idea in which the modern and buffooneries, of heroism and meanness.” and the ancient each worked. The Cordelia
In certain schools of criticism, even yet, of Shakspere and the Antigone of Sophocles the notion that 'Lear' "may be judged to have many points of similarity; but they be the most perfect specimen of the dramatic each belong to a different system of art. It art existing in the world” would be treated is for the highest minds only to carry their as a mere visionary conceit; and we should several systems to an approach to the perstill be reminded that Shakspere was a fection to which Shakspere and Sophocles “wild and irregular genius,” producing these have carried them. It was for the feeblest results because he could not help it. In of imitators, in a feeble age, to produce such France are still heard the feeble echoes of parodies as those of Tate, under the pretence the contest between the disciples of the of substituting order for irregularity, but in romantic and the classic schools.
utter ignorance of the principle of order Nahum Tate did not unfitly represent his which was too skilfully framed to be visible age, when he said of 'Lear,' “ It is a heap of to the grossness of their taste.