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conduct there is not only wisdom, but virtue, he will, under every calamity, be able to rejoice in hope, and to anticipate the felicity of that state, in which * the Spirits of the Just shall be made perfect.'
N° 97. TUESDAY, OCTOBER 9, 1753.
Xρη δε και εν τοις ηθεσιν ωσπερ και εν τη των πραγματων ουστασει, αει ζητειν, ή τε αναγκαιον, ή το εικος.
As well in the conduct of the manners as in the constitu. tion of the fable, we must always endeavour to produce either what is necessary or what is probable.
• WHOEVER ventures,' says Horace, 'to form a character totally original, let him endeavour to preserve it with uniformity and consistency; but the formation of an original character is a work of great difficulty and hazard.' In this arduous and uncommon task, however, Shakspeare has wonderfully succeeded in his Tempest: the monster Calyban is the creature of his own imagination, in the formation of which he could derive no assistance from observation or experience.
Calyban is the son of a witch, begotten by a demon: the sorceries of his mother were so terrible, that her countrymen banished her into this desart island as unfit for human society : in conformity, therefore, to this diabolical propagation, he is represented as a prodigy of cruelty, malice, pride, ignorance, idleness, gluttony, and lust. He is introduced with great propriety, cursing Prospero, and Miranda whom he had endeavoured to defile; and his execrations are artfully contrived to have reference to the occupation of his mother :
As wicked dew, as e'er my mother brush'd
-All the charms
His kindness is, afterwards, expressed as much in character, as his hatred, by an enumeration of offices, that could be of value only in a desolate island, and in the estimation of a savage:
I pr’ythee, let me bring thee where crabs grow;
Which last is, indeed, a circumstance of great use in a place, where to be defended from the cold was neither easy nor usual; and it has a farther
peculiar beauty, because the gathering wood was the occupation to which Calyban was subjected by Prospero, who, therefore, deemed it a service of high importance.
The gross ignorance of this monster is represented with delicate judgment; he knew not the names of the sun and moon, which he calls the bigger light and the less; and he believes that Stephano was the man in the moon, whom his mistress had often shewn him; and when Prospero reminds him that he first taught him to pronounce articulately, his answer is full of malevolence and rage :
You taught me language ; and my profit on't
the properest return for such a fiend to make for such a favour. The spirits whom he supposes to be employed by Prospero perpetually to torment him, and the
forms and different methods they take for this purpose, are described with the utmost liveliness and force of fancy :
Sometimes like apes, that moe and chatter at me,
It is scarcely possible for any speech to be more expressive of the manners and sentiments, than that in which our poet has painted the brutal barbarity and unfeeling savageness of this son of Sycorax, by making him enumerate, with a kind of horrible delight, the various ways in which it was possible for the drunken sailors to surprise and kill his master :
There thou may'st brain him,
He adds, in allusion to his own abominable attempt,
above all, be sure to secure the daughter'; whose beauty,' he tells them, is incomparable.' The charms of Miranda could not be more exalted, than by extorting this testimony from so insensible a monster.
Shakspeare seems to be the only poet who possesses the power of uniting poetry with propriety of character; of which I know not an instance more striking, than the image Calyban makes use of to express silence, which is at once highly poetical, and exactly suited to the wildness of the speaker :
Pray you tread softly, that the blind mole may not
I always lament that our author has not preserved this fierce and implacable spirit in Calyban, to the end of the play; instead of which, he has, I think, injudiciously put into his mouth, words that imply repentance and understanding.
I'll be wise hereafter
It must not be forgotten, that Shakspeare has artfully taken occasion from this extraordinary character, which is finely contrasted to the mildness and obedience of Ariel, obliquely to satirize the prevailing passion for new and wonderful sights, which has rendered the English so ridiculous. • Were I in England now,' says Trinculo, on first discovering Calyban, and had but this fish painted, not an holiday-fool there but would give a piece of silver.—When they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian.'
Such is the inexhaustible plenty of our poet's invention, that he has exhibited another character in this play, entirely his own; that of the lovely and innocent Miranda.
When Prospero first gives her a sight of Prince Ferdinand, she eagerly exclaims,
What is't? a spirit ?
Her imagining that as he was so beautiful he must necessarily be one of her father's aërial agents, is a stroke of nature worthy admiration : as are likewise her entreaties to her father not to use him harshly,
of his art;
Why speaks my father so ungently? This
Here we perceive the beginning of that passion, which Prospero was desirous she should feel for the Prince; and which she afterwards more fully expresses upon an occasion, which displays at once the tenderness, the innocence, and the simplicity of her character. She discovers her lover employed in the laborious task of carrying wood, which Prospero had enjoined him to perform. Would,' says she, the lightning had burnt up those logs, that you are enjoined to pile !
If you'll sit down,
You look wearily.
It is by selecting such little, and almost imperceptible circumstances, that Shakspeare has more truly painted the passions than any other writer : affection is more powerfully expressed by this simple wish and offer of assistance, than by the unnatural eloquence and witticisms of Dryden, or the amorous declamations of Rowe.