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- FROM THE MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
CRITICAL REMARKS ON SHAKSPEARE.
MIDsumMER NIGHT's DREAM. .Act I. Scene 1. My gracious duke, This man hath witched the bosom of my child; Thou, thou, Lysander, thou hast given her rhimes. By rhimes, seem to be meant some kind of metrical charms, and not merely love-verses, which Lysander is afterwards charged with singing by moonlight at Hermia’s window. So Rosalind, in As You Like It. Act iii. Scene 6. “ I was never so berhimed since Pythagoras's time, when I was an Irish rat, which I hardly remember.” The human mortals want their winter here, &c. Act II. Scene 2. “Shakspeare, without question, wrote,” says Dr. Warburton, “winter heryed,” that is, praised or celebrated. The word is to be found in Spenser's Calendar. Sir Thomas Hanmer, with far superiour judgment, proposes to read “ winter cheer.” And Dr. Johnson, yet more happily, “wonted year,” though he still thinks Titania’s account confused and inconsequential; and therefore, in imitation of Scaliger's experiment upon the Gallus of Virgil, he ventures upon a transposition of the lines, containing, it must be allowed, much display of ingenuity. There is, however, no occasion for carrying critical temerity so far. Titania enumerates the various calamities with which the earth was afflicted, in consequence of the quarrel subsisting between her and Oberon; and apparently closes the account with observing, that “the human mortals want their wonted year.” She immediately adds, not by way of consequence, but as resuming the subject:
* No night is now with hymn or carol blest Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger washes all the air,
That is, we are perpetually disturbed with thy brawls; therefore, our hymns and carols are neglected: therefore, the moon, the governess of floods, is offended: therefore, no longer adored, and pale in her anger, she washes all the air: therefore, the seasons alter, &c. There is hereby a regular series of deductions. Dr. J. supposes the devotion of the human, not of the fairy race, to suffer interruption; and his construction is, “Men find no winter; therefore, they sing no hymns; therefore, the moon, provoked by this omission, alters the seasons;”—that is, the alteration of the seasons produces the alteration of the seasons. This is clearly erroIne Olls.
“The honey-bags steal from the humble bees,
And for wax-tapers crop their waxen thighs,
And light them at the fiery glow-worm’s eyes.” .Act III. Scene 1.
“I know not,” says Dr. Johnson, “how Shakspeare, who commonly
derived his knowledge of nature
from his own observation, happened to place the glow-worm’s light in his eyes, which is only in his tail.” But is it not evident that Shakspeare purposely sacrificed, in this instance, physical accuracy of description to poetical effect? Who would advise, or could approve of, any alteration? And what poor duty cannot do, Noble respect takes it in might, not merit. Act V. Scene 1. The meaning is, that a generous mind takes the laborious effort, or endeavour, to please in lieu of merit. Dr. Johnson proposes to read, “take not in might but merit.” This is plausible, but it is not Shaksperian phraseology.
Is thick inlaid with pattens of bright gold; There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold'st, But in his motion like an angel sings, Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubims: Such harmony is in immortal souls; But whilst this muddy vesture of decay Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it. ..?ct V. Scene 1.
Dr. Warburton changes, erroneously, beyond a doubt, souls to sounds. Dr. Johnson rightly explains the passage, by interpreting harmony to be the power of perceiving harmony; as musick in the soul is the quality of being moved with concord of sweet sounds. But he alters, without necessity, and by a deviation from the true meaning, “immortal souls” to “the immortal soul.” The purport of the passage is, “such power of deriving bliss from harmony resides in the immortal souls of men, as well as in angels and cherubims; but we cannot exercise it in the present inferiour state of existence.
Dr. Warburton observes, that Shakspeare uses modern in the double sense; that the Greeks used xams: both for recens and absurdus. But modern is not used by Shakspeare, either for recens or absurdus, but for slight or trivial; as in this very play, act iv. scene 1: “And betray themselves to every modern censure.” So in king John, “And scorns a modern invocation.” And in All's Well that Ends Well, “ Her insuit coming with her modern grace;” and in Macbeth (to quote no farther examples) “Where violent sorrow seems a modern ecstacy. The meaning is, That the justice has collected a great number of commonplace maxims, which he is forward and eager to apply to every slight and trivial occasion.
Blow, blow, thou winter wind;
Although thy breath be rude. Ib. Ib.
Various attempts have been made to correct the fifth line of this stanza, but with very ill success. Dr. Warburton would fain persuade us to read, “ thou art not sheen;” that is, shining or smiling. Sir Thomas Hanmer, by a dangerous and unwarrantable license, changes the whole line to “thou causest not that teen.” Dr. Farmer proposes, “ because the heart’s not seen.” And Mr. Musgrave, “because thou art foreseen.” After all, perhaps, the only alteration necessary may be teen for seen, and the sense will then be, “ Because, though thou art pain, thou art not sorrow; though thou art a sharp and bitter evil, still thou art a natural and not a mental one.”
Rosalind’s love for Orlando. “There is more in it.” These are genuine touches of nature.
This is a very interesting and beautiful comedy. The pastoral and forest scenery, connected with the fable, gives it a wild and romantick air. The characters are natural, and delineated with skill and felicity. That of the melancholy Jaques, is altogether original, and exhibits exquisite touches of Shakspeare’s creative pencil.
TAMING of THE SHREw.
Dr. Farmer has, without any external proof, and in contradiction to the strongest internal evidence, pronounced Shakspeare’s property in this excellent drama to be extremely disputable. The truth is, that a play under the same name, and founded upon the same story, had appeared, A. D. 1607; and it cannot be denied that this play was closely imitated by Shakspeare, in respect both to character and incident. But the general composition of the old play is very mean, and the dialogue was almost entirely new-written by the great poet. Who can doubt that the following passages, amongst many others, are the genuine production of Shakspeare’s magick pen:
“O Tranio, while idly I stood looking on,
It is the mind that makes the body rich; And as the sun breaks through the darkest clouds, So honour peereth in the meanest habit; What! is the jay more precious than the lark, - Because his feathers are more beautiful? ...Act IV. Scene 4,
The principal merit of this play, does not consist in the poetry, but in the freedom and vigour with which it is throughout imbued and animated. All the parts of the induction are exquisitely humorous. There is a passage in the old play, of such superiour, excellence, that we cannot hesitate to ascribe it to Shakspeare, to whose revisal, as theatrical manager, it was not improbably submitted previous to its appearance on the stage.
Fair lovely lady, bright and crystalline, Beauteous and stately as the eye-trained bird, As glorious as the morning washed with dew Within whose eyes she takes her dawning beams, And golden summer sleeps upon thy cheeks' WINTER’s TALE. This play is strangely supposed by some of the commentators to be surreptitious; but Dr. Warburton truly pronounces it “to be throughout, written in the very spirit of Shakspeare,” who, in this simple and pleasing drama, “ warbles his native wood notes wild,” in a strain which no other writer could ever successfully emulate. The conduct of the fable is, indeed, extravagant; but the inspiration of genius perwades the whole, and incongruity and impropriety vanish before it. The story of this play is taken from a novel, written by R. Green, entitled: The pleasant History of Dorastus and Fawnia; but the parts of Antigonus, Paulina, and Autolycus, are, as Mr. Steevens informs us, of Shakspeare's own invention. It has been very justly remarked by Mr. Horace Walpole, that the characters of Leontes and Hermione bear an allusion to those of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn. The subject could not be treated on the stage without a veil, and the poet has discovered great address in his mode of managing it. The task was by no means easy to vindicate the innocence of the queen, without making the character of the king too odious; and it must be acknowledged, that Leontes, rash, credulous, and passionate as he is, ex
hibits much too favourable a portrait of the merciless tyrant he is supposed to represent. You may ride us, With one soft touch a thousand furlongs ere with spur we heap an acre, but to the goal. Act I Scene 2. « That is,” says Dr. Warburton, “good usage will win us to any thing; but with ill we stop short, even there where both our interest and inclination would otherwise have carried us.” This is, indeed, assigning that sense to the words which suits the general tenour of the passage; but how the words themselves will admit of such a construction, the learned commentator has not attempted to explain. “But to the goal” must mean, except to the goal; which is directly contrary to the conclusion we are led to expect. The true reading seems to be to be it to the goal;” that is, with ill usage we make no exertions, though we should be within reach of the goal.
What were more holy Than to rejoice the former queen is well: What holier than, for royalty’s repair, For present comfort, and for future good, To bless the bed of majesty again, With a sweet fellow to it?
- Act V. Scene 1. Dr. Warburton changes the structure of the second line in the following manner: “Than to rejoice the former queen? This will.” And Dr. Johnson so far countenances this strange alteration, as to say, “it is plausible, and such as we may wish the author had chosen.” “What,” says Dion, “were more holy in the present state of things, than, instead of repining to rejoice that the former queen is released from her troubles? Instead of wishing her sainted spirit again to possess her corpse,” as it is subsequently expressed, what can be holier than, for royalty’s repair, to fill up the vacancy in the bed of majesty with a partner worthy of it. When the sense is so plain, why induige this propensity to innevation or amendment?
ACCOUNT OF JOSEPH PAISLEY, THE GRETNA GREEN COUPLER.
THE deceased, Joseph Paisley, of coupling celebrity, was born on the borders of England, in the year 1728, or 1729, at the obscure hamlet of Lenoxtown, about a mile distance from Gretna Green; at which place, and at Springfield (its immediate neighbourhood) the subject of this memoir half a century continued to weld together the chains of matrimony; to render happy or miserable great multitudes of anxious lovers. Early in life, Paisley was apprentice to a tobacconist; but becoming disgusted with this employment, he changed it for that of a fisherman, and was allowed by his brethren to bear the palm on all occasions, where strength and agility were required. It was in this humble capacity that he was initiated into the secrets of a profession, which he managed with such address. He had formed a connexion with one Walter Cowford, who lived very near to Sarkfoot, upon the seashore; and who, though strange it may appear, was both a smuggler and a firiest. Old Watty had the misfortune to be but indifferently lodged, having “a reeky house,” and what is perhaps worse, a scolding wife, so that he was necessitated to perform the marriage ceremony on the open beach, among the furze, or, as it is provincially called, whins; on these occasions young Paisley officiated as clerk. But our hero had ambition, and he only wanted an opportunity for its exertion. An opportunity soon offered itself. One time Watty went to the Isle of Man, for the purpose of fetching over a cargo of contraband brandy; whilst his assistant remained at home to perform the necessary rites, during the absence of the former. Finding that he could rivet the matrimonial band equally as well as his master, and being at the same time under some pecuniary
embarrassment, he began business on his own account, and by his ability and address, soon overcame all competition.
About the year 1794, he was served with a subpoena to give evidence at Bristol, respecting the validity of a marriage. It was expected by thousands, that the event of the trial would put an end to Joe's matrimonial career. The contrary, however, took place; for, by his dexterous management, he not only succeeded in rendering the match valid, but was enabled to follow his favourite profession with increased security.— During this journey, he visited the metropolis, where he was much noticed by the nobility and gentry. Had he been of a covetous disposition, he might have accumulated a considerable fortune; but, since the time to which we allude, he had never been distant a single mile from Springfield.
Of Joseph’s personal strength, there are many well authenticated accounts. His strength of arm was prodigious. He could have taken a large oaken stick by the end, and continued to shake it to and fro, until it went to pieces in the airl The excellence of his constitution was likewise often tried; though it must be allowed that his intemperance was proverbial, yet he reached his eighty second year. He was accustomed to relate, with great pleasure, a celebrated achievement, in which he and a jovial companion, a horse breaker, were once engaged, when they consumed the amazing quantity of ten gallons of hure brandy in the short space of sixty hours; and, what is more, these two thirsty souls kicked the empty cask in pieces with their feet, for having run dry so soon. It may be conjectured, that the conversation of such a character could not be very engaging, Juvenile feats of activity, and