Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

a speech in the preparation of which the that he has failed to imagine the close of knowledge possessed by me must receive the tragedy as it was conceived by Shakeimmediate and large augmentation from speare. Although the play includes a the authorities to whom I refer myself ; I double plot - the story of the house of am crammed by skilful crammers; I put Gloucester and the story of the house of to use the knowledge which I have gained, Lear - this is not the moment to divide and then dismiss from my mind what has the solemn tragic impression. We do not been needed only for a passing occasion. think now of Edmund; he has been dealt And there are numberless cases occurring with by the strong right hand of God's throughout life, in which it is of the ut- justiciary, Edgar; he has been borne off most importance to possess the capacity the stage before the entrance of Lear. of thus quickly and correctly gaining ac. And as the curtain falls we see the dead quaintance with facts to serve the needs Lear with his three daughters dead; the of a day or of an hour." *

evil and the good seemingly overtaken by But an intelligent examiner will give a one common doom; but Cordelia, the repreference to questions which do more jected and offcast child, slain by the than test the memory. There is a class passion of love which brought her from of questions which serve as a test of close France to Britain and now restored to her and intelligent reading, and also give the father's arms, while the two unnatural sis. candidate an opportunity of showing ters lie apart, each the ruin of her own whether he has exercised what I may call monstrous passions. the faculty of imaginative realization. If I would have the student, then, approach I act as examiner in “ King Lear," and the piece of literature which forms the put the question : “Who is the speaker of subject of his study from every side, and the following lines and on what occasion think no pains ill-bestowed which help to are they spoken,

bring him into close contact with it. The He is attended by a desperate train,

consideration of a textual crux in itself And what they may incense him to, being apt sharpens the wits; and if the student be To have his ear abused, wisdom bids fear"?

alive about other and larger things than

verbal difficulties, the retardation of his I test no more than memory. But if I advance, caused by some question as to a ask this question: "On what occasion doubtful text, will be of service to him, does Lear say of Cordelia,

allowing his mind to work in some way of Her voice was ever soft, unconscious cerebration about the higher Gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman"? problems of the poem or the play, as we I do something towards ascertaining the unconsciously take in a landscape froin activity of a higher power than memory,

different points of view while picking our the power, as I have termed it, of imagi- steps among boulders or shingle towards native realization. For these words are

a mountain platform. uttered by Lear at the moment when he is Here feel we but the penalty of Adam, bending over his dead daughter, to catch The seasons' difference, the low utterance of that voice which is now silent forever

says the banished duke in the forest of

Arden. It is well worth considering

Ha!
What is't thou sayst? Her voice was ever

whether Shakespeare wrote
soft,

Here feel we not the penalty of Adam, Gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman. Or the candidate may be required to de- as the Folio has it, or whether Theobald's

emendation but shall be received. The scribe the spectacle on the stage as the student's eye ought to be as sharp at least curtain is falling at the close of the fifth act of the same play. He will remember But while delayed by this petty difficulty,

as the eye of a tailor threading his needle. of course that the bodies of Goneril and he cannot help stealing glances to the Regan have been produced :

right and left; and he will have lived Produce the bodies be they alive or dead. longer, even though unconsciously, in the He will doubtless remember that Lear manly and gentle temper of the dúke who dies with Cordelia in his arms. But if he in Arden woods has discovered the sweet should describe the body of Edmund as

uses of adversity. being also present, he will give evidence

Let us suppose that the teacher and his

pupils set themselves to master the play I report faithfully the substance of what was said. of “ Hamlet.” It would be desirable first I cannot be sure as to the precise words.

of all that the play should be read swiftly

and attentively from beginning to end, if finest of the fine arts. A mongrel somepossible at a single sitting. A general thing which, at least with the inferior view of the whole is necessary before at- adepts, is neither good reading nor yet tending to minutiæ ; otherwise we see veritable acting, but which sets agape the nothing but a succession of petty and un- half-educated with the wonder of its airs connected points, and the eye runs a risk and attitudinizing, its pseudo-heroics and of that disease of shortsightedness, which pseudo-pathos, has usurped the place of has its outward and visible sign in the the true art of reading aloud, and has spectacles worn by the myopic scholar.* made the word “recitation ” a terror to A broad knowledge of the action of the quiet folk who are content with intelliplay and some conception of the char- gence and refinement. Happily in their acters will often serve us in the interpreta- behalf the great sense-carrier to the emtion of details, and will give a reason and pire, Mr. Punch, has at length seen it add an interest to our scrutiny of every right to intervene. The reading which sentence and every word. Something in we should desire to cultivate is intelligent the way of introduction must be said by reading, that is, it should express the the teacher as to the sources of the text'; meaning of each passage clearly; sympaand if he have the opportunity he will do thetic reading, that is, it should convey well not merely to talk of Folio and the feeling delicately; musical reading, Quarto, but to let his pupils see and han- that is, it should move in accord with the dle the facsimiles of the first and second melody and harmony of what is read, be Quartos produced by Mr. Griggs, together it in verse or prose. “I often think," with Mr. Staunton's noble facsimile of the writes Sir Henry Taylor in an unpubfirst Folio. The thought may strike across lished letter of thirty years ago, now in the brain of some forward youth that he my hands,“ how strange it is that amongst need not remain always in leading-strings all the efforts which are made in these to an editor or a commentator ; that here times to teach young people everything he can inquire and verify for himself. that is to be known, from the cedar of And thus an impulse may by happy Lebanon to the hyssop upon the wall, the chance be received which shall start a one thing omitted is teaching them to read. scholarly mind upon a career of original At present, to be sure, it is a very rare research.

thing to find any one who can teach it; The teacher and his pupils will now but it is an art which might be propagated read aloud the first scene of the play. from the few to the many with great They will read it not in character, but rapidity if a due appreciation of it were to speech by speech, each person taking the become current. The rage for lecturing speech which happens to come to him would be a more reasonable rage if that as the reading passes round the class. were taught in lectures which can be conWere characters assigned half the class veyed only by voice and utterance and not must be silent during certain scenes, and by books. A few weeks ago I was pointthe interest of the listeners would naturally ing out to Dr. Whewell one of the most flag. Moreover, the readers would lose sublime and majestic passages that I know the central standpoint from which all the of in prose (a passage in one of Bacon's characters are to be viewed. Horatio prefaces), and I asked him to read it aloud. would know the part of Horatio well; but I was astonished to find that he read it as he would know the other dramatis per. the town-crier might have read it. sonæ too little except as they are brought could not be that he was insensible to the into relation with Horatio. 'We must try, grace and beauty of the language; I beon the contrary, to see Hamlet and Ophe- lieve he was no more insensible to it than lia and the king from Shakespeare's cen. I am to the beauty of a Raphael or a tral point of vision, and not rest satisfied Perugino; but he was no more able to with a series of imperfect side views of produce it in utterance than I am to paint the whole.

a “Saint Cecilia' or an Incendio del Few persons nowadays seem to feel Borgo.' how powerful an instrument of culture Having read the first scene of “Hammay be found in modest, intelligent, and let,” the teacher and his pupils, of our sympathetic reading aloud. The reciter imaginary class-room, will turn back to and the elocutionist of late have done see whether anything requires comment much to rob us of this which is one of the or explanation. Attention may be called

to the fact that the chief character, Ham. • It is much to be regretted that in the study of a let, is not thrust to the front as Richard Greek play something of this kind is not attempted. III. is in the opening scene of the play

It

which bears his name. “King Richard | Horatio and Hamlet, but the discussion of III.” was written when Shakespeare was this subject may be reserved until later. under Marlowe's influence, and it opens There will be many obsolete words or like “Doctor Faustus ” and “The Jew of words with altered meanings —"rivals of Malta " with great soliloquy uttered by my watch,”. “sledded Polacks,” “ unimthe protagonist. In “Hamlet," as in proved mettle," " prologue to the omen “Romeo and Juliet,” the environment is - to be explained, and at least one diffiprepared for the hero of the play before cult textual crux, he enters. Again, the teacher may cite the words in which Gildon records a ridic. As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood, ulous traditition : “ This scene, I have to be examined. Nor will the teacher fail been assured,” says he, “Shakespeare to call attention to the similarity in the wrote in a charnel-house in the midst of metrical movement of those lines in which the night,” and may make this an occasion Horatio addresses the ghost, for dwelling on the fact that though to a

If thou hast any sound or use of voice, certain extent the scene is one of horror, Speak to me, etc., yet the horror has nothing in it of the raw-head and bloody-bones description, and that of a passage very different in but is throughout elevated and majestic in substance and spirit, where Silvius, in its mystery and sorrow. The closing

“As you Like it," reproaches old Corin speeches especially, it may be noticed, are with his ignorance of true love : * illuminated by a spiritual beauty, with

If thou remember'st not the slightest folly their references to the sacred season of

That ever love did make thee run into, the Saviour's birth,

Thou hast not loved, etc. The nights are wholesome, then no planets in each case the force of the address is

strike, No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to enhanced by the thrice-recurring hemischarm,

tich. So hallow'd and so gracious is the time,

Occupied with such an examination,

now of the larger features of the play, now and are touched with the light and color of minute details, the students of " Hamof the dawn already brightening the hill- let” would steadily and patiently work tops,

their way from the first line to the last. But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad, Then a survey of the whole might be given Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastern hill.

in the form of a prelection, in which, among In the opening lines, –

other matters, the views of the character

of Hamlet taken by Goethe and Coleridge Bernardo. Who's there?

and other eminent critics might be conFrancisco. Nay, answer me; stand and unfold sidered. Nor would it be uninteresting yourself,

or amiss to notice the interpretation of the teacher will observe whether due em- the tragedy by great actors, and to call phasis has been placed on the word me as attention to its qualities as an acting play proper to the response and challenge of which have enabled it to hold the stage the sentinel, and will correct the reader if during three centuries. he have laid the stress only on the word

Let us suppose now that the student He will note the uneasiness of knows this one play of Shakespeare's for the believers in the apparition in contrast what it is as thoroughly as it can be with Horatio's half-jesting reply to the known. He knows the play as it is, but question, "What, is Horatio there?” "A he does not yet know how it came to be piece of him.” He will consider whether what it is. A mind that is alive and inthe line,

quiring naturally seeks to discover the What, has this thing appeared again to-night? things are but imperfectly known until

causes of things, and is sensible that should be assigned, as in the Folio, to they are known in and through their Marcellus, or, as in the Quartos, to the causes. How then did the play of “ Hamsceptical Horatio. The lines,

let" come to be what it is? Obviously Such was the very armor he had on

the single work belongs to a group of When he the ambitious Norway combated,

works which proceeded from the same

author and which possess certain common on comparison with certain speeches of characteristics. The inquirer must adthe gravedigger (Act v. 1, 135-140) will raise the difficult question of the ages of

• Noticed by the Clarendon Press editors,

answer.

a

vance from the first unit in the study of you like it,” “ King Lear,”. “ Antony and literature - a single complete work – to Cleopatra,”'“ The Tempest," and if he has a larger unit, the group of works to which not learnt something of the height and it belongs, and thence to the mind from depth and breadth of Shakespeare's genwhich they all proceeded. And now ius he will never learn to know these. larger aspects of beauty and deeper Let him next place the dramas hitherto sources of interest begin to reveal them. read in their chronological order, and add selves. There are lines of force which, the “ Two Gentlemen of Verona" as an as it were, run through “ Hamlet,” but early comedy in comparison with “As which have their beginnings elsewhere, you Like it; "" King Richard III." as an and which do not complete themselves early history in comparison with “King until we have reached “The Tempest Henry IV.;” “Romeo and Juliet” as an and;“A Winter's Tale.” To trace the early tragedy in comparison with “ King majestic sweep of these lines is even a Lear.” He has read indeed only nine higher delight than to make acquaintance plays out of thirty-seven, but if he has not with any prince of Denmark, even though acquired some sense of the growth and we should indeed pluck out the heart of history of Shakespeare's powers as his mystery and be able to sound him dramatist he will never acquire it. Let from his lowest note to the top of his com- one thing more be added, the “Sonnets," pass. The fruit-tree is more valuable than in order that his feeling for the man any of its fruits singly, and possesses a Shakespeare, who forever lurks behind higher kind of beauty : “the blossoms, the dramatist, may be quickened and deepthe green and the ripe fruit of an orange ened. He has indeed much yet to learn, tree are more beautiful to behold when on but very little, it may be hoped, to unthe tree, and seen as one with it, than the learn. same growth detached and seen succes. In the case of Shakespeare we labor sively, after their importation into another under the disadvantage of knowing comcountry and different clime."

paratively little of his life. There are To know “Hamlet” aright we must persons indeed to whom this seems to be therefore know Shakespeare. We pass no disadvantage, and the utterance sounds from the study of a book to the study of somewhat heroic in its superiority to facts an author. And here our inquiry is two and to the common sentiment of men fold; we must endeavor first to perceive when such a person thanks heaven that and comprehend the characteristics of our we can read the poems and plays without author's genius, and secondly to trace its troubling ourselves with any of the gossip development and history. This indeed is of biography. What were we the better an achievement for athletes; but by a for endless chatter about Anne Hathaway? judicious method something can be done I confess that I fall in very contentedly to bring home to the consciousness even with the general feeling of my fellows to of a young student a real sense of the which no relic of the man Shakespeare is greatness and variety of Shakespeare's wholly without interest. I should like to powers, and to enable him to understand know him as well, in all the incidents of how those powers put forth first the bud his life, as I know Dr. Johnson. and blossom and then the ripened fruit. writings,” said Goethe, "are fragments of He cannot be expected to be familiar a great confession.” And so it is and so with all the comedies, tragedies, histories, it will be with every great writer who poems, which make up Shakespeare's won writes not merely out of his head in the derful gift to the world; but we can do dry light of intellect, but out of his head something towards putting him in the way and heart, with intellect, imagination, pas. of knowing aright Shakespeare's total sions, senses, conscience, will, all conwork and the mind of its creator. He can- spiring to one common result. We read not examine carefully seven-and-thirty the great confession in “Werther” and separate plays; let us then select for his “Faust” and “Tasso" and “Iphigenie” use two small groups - one group in. and “ Wilhelm Meister” and “ Die Wahl. tended to bring him into close relation verwandtschaften and the “West-östlicher with the poet's genius when working at its Divan” with twofold intelligence and highest, the other intended to exhibit the double sympathy, because we development and history of that genius. quainted with Goethe at Frankfurt and Let him read “ King Henry IV.,' “ As Strassburg and Wetzlar in the Sturm

und Drang of his youth ; with Goethe at Coleridge, Aids to Reflection, Introductory Apho- Weimar, when the man of the world and risms, v.

the idealist within him— the Tasso and

“ All my

are ac

the Antonio — were at odds ; with Goethe of State as Latin secretary; in his house when, after his stormy struggles towards near Bunhill Fields dictating in his blindunbounded spiritual liberty, he found that ness from the elbow-chair — the “organtrue freedom was attainable only through voice of England" unheard amid the noise a wisely limited activity; with Goethe of Restoration riot - or sitting at the door caught in the toils of his own passions, in sunny weather in his grey coarse cloth yet with strong and deliberate hand de coat, his face pale but not cadaverous, and livering himself from those toils; with his sightless eyes still clear, to outward Goethe in the illuminated wisdom, the view, of blemish or of spot. light, wide and serene, of his elder years. Knowing Milton thus, we shall know

There is of course gossip of biography “Samson Agonistes” more truly and fully with which no true student of literature than if we had never passed beyond the or of life will concern himself. An accu- poem to its author, and we shall also know mulation of trivial accident and unorgan- not only what it is but how it came to be ized circumstance on which mind and what it is. In refunding the poem into character have had no play, and which has the life, and interpreting the life by the had no play on these, is not life but mere poem, we have come to see and feel many lumber and litter. Yet it sometimes hap- things which otherwise must have escaped pens that a seemingly trivial fact, wholly our notice. But let Professor Masson devoid of interest in itself, becomes an take my place and use the expositor's essential link in a chain of evidence on pointing-rod : which depends some conclusion of weight. Dr. Dryasdust is therefore a person to The story of Samson mnst have seemed to wards whom the true student may at times Milton a metaphor or allegory of much of his feel grateful, and of whom he will not own life in its later stages. He also, in his lightly think scorn.

veteran days, after the Restoration, was a In order to acquire right methods in champion at bay, a prophet warrior left alone what I may call the biographical study of among men of a different faith and different literature the student must set himself ruin of his cause, and wreaked their wrath

Philistines, who exulted in the down to make complete acquaintance with

upon him for his past services to that cause at least one great author, whose life is far by insults, calumnies, and jeers at his misformore fully known to us than is the life of tunes and the cause itself. He also was blind Shakespeare. It will be his task to col. as Samson had been - groping about among late the author's life and his works, seeking the malignant conditions that had befallen to interpret each in and through the other; him, helplessly dependent on the guiding of to refund now the life into the writings, others, and berest of the external consolations and now again the writings into the life; and means of resistance to his scorners that or, if this be impossible, to consider each might have come to him through sight. He alternately as the text and the other as past. In that past, too, there were similari

also had to live mainly in the imagery of the its commentary. The task is simpler and ties in his case to that of Samson. Like Sameasier when the author happens to be one son, substantially, he had been a Nazarite whose genius is not of the dramatic order. no drinker of wine or strong drink, but one It is easier to discover Milton in “Co- who had always been an ascetic in his dedimus" or “Samson Agonistes” than to cated service to great designs. And the chief discover Shakespeare in “Othello" or blunder in his life, that which had gone near“ Macbeth." And here the student is for- est to wreck it, and had left the most marring tunate in being able to put himself under consequences and the most painful reflections, the guidance of Professor Masson, so that was the very blunder of which, twice repeated, while attempting to know Milton in Co: Samson had to accuse himself. Like Sam

he had married a Philistine woman - one mus” and “ Lycidas,” in the “Sonnets," not of his own tribe, and having no thoughts in “ Paradise Lost” and “ Paradise Re- or interests in common with his own; and, gained,” in the “ Areopagitica ” and the like Samson, he had suffered indignities from "Letter on Education," and other writ. this wife and her relations, till he had learnt ings in verse and prose, one may also to rue the match. . . . In short, there must come to know him as the lady of his col. have rushed upon Milton, contemplating in lege, virginal in aspect and purity of heart, his later life the story of the blind Samson if virile in intellect and will; as the young with his own case, that there is little wonder

among the Philistines, so many similarities recluse at Horton among his books or that he then selected this subject for poetic wandering in the meadows by the banks

treatment. While writing

"Samson Ago of the Colne; in London as the armed nistes” (i.e., Samson the Agonist, Athlete, champion of liberty, domestic, civil, and or Wrestler) he must have been secretly conreligious; in the chamber of the Council scious throughout that he was representing

« ZurückWeiter »