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Hamlet was making this speech, his two old schoolfellows from Wittenberg had been really standing by, and he had seen them smiling by stealth, at the idea of the players crossing their minds. It is not a combination and a form of words, a set speech or two, a preconcerted theory of a character, that will do this, but all the persons concerned must have been

present in the poet's imagination, as at a kind of rehearsal. “ The account of Ophelia's death begins thus :

* There is a willow hanging o'er a brook,
That shows its hoary leaves in the glassy stream.'-

Now this is an instance of the same unconscious power of mind which is as true to nature as itself. The leaves of the willow are, in fact, white underneath, and it is this part of them which would appear 'hoary' in the reflection in the brook. The same sort of intuitive power, the same faculty of bringing every object in nature, whether present or absent, before the mind's eye, is observable in the speech of Cleopatra, when conjeeturing what were the employments of Antony in his absence :

—He's speaking now, or murmuring, Where's my serpent of old Nile ? How fine to make Cleopatra have this consciousness of her own character, and to make her feel that it is this for which Antony is in love with her ! She says, after the battle of Actium, when Antony has resolved to risk another fight, ' It is my birth-day ; I had thought to have held it poor: but since my lord is Antony again, I will be Cleopatra.' What other poet would have thought of such a casual resource of the imagination, or would have dared to avail himself of it? The thing happens in the play as it might have happened in fact.That which perhaps more than any thing else distinguishes the dramatic productions of Shakspeare from all others, is this wonderful truth and individuality of conception. His plays alone are properly expressions of the passions, not descriptions of them. His characters are real beings of flesh and blood; they speak like men, not like authors. One might suppose that he had stood by at the time, and overheard what passed. As in our dreams we hold conversations with ourselves, make remarks, or communicate intelligence, and have no idea of the answer which we shall receive, and which we ourselves make, till we hear it ; so the dialogues in Shakspeare are carried on without any consciousness of what is to follow, without any appearance of preparation or premeditation. The gusts of passion come and go like sounds of music borne on the wind. Nothing is made out by formal inference and analogy, by climax and antithesis : all comes, or seems to come, immediately from nature. Each object and circumstance exists in his mind, as it would have existed in reality : each several train of thought and feel ing goes on of itself, without confusion or effort. In the world of his imagination, every thing has a life, a place, and

being of its own! “The passion in Shakspeare is of the same nature as his delineation

of character. It is not some one habitual feeling or sentiment preying upon itself, growing out of itself, and moulding every thing to itself; it is passion modified by passion, by all the other feelings to which the individual is liable, and to which others are liable with him ; subject to all the fluctuations of caprice and accident ; calling into play all the resources of the understanding and all the energies of the will; irritated by obstacles or yielding to them ; rising from small beginnings to its utmost height; now drunk with hope, now sunk in despair, now blown to air with a breath, now raging like a torrent. "The mortal instruments are then at war, and all the state of man suffers an insurrection. The human soul is made the sport of fortune, the prey of adversity: it is stretched on the wheel of destiny, in restless ecstacy. The passions are in a state of projection. Years are melted down to moments, and every instant teems with fate. We know the results, we also see the process. Thus after lago has been boasting to himself of the effect of his poisonous suggestions on the mind of Othello,' which, with a little act upon the blood, will work like mines of sulphur,' he adds,

Look where he comes ! not poppy, nor mandragora,
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the East,
Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
Which thou owed'st yesterday.'

And he enters at this moment, like the crested serpent, crowned with his wrongs, stung to madness, and raging for revenge ! The whole depends upon the turn of a thought. A word, a look, blows the spark of jealousy into a flame; and the explosion is immediate and terrible as a volcano. The dialogues in Lear, in Macbeth, that between Brutus and Cassius, and nearly all those in Shakspeare, where the interest is wrought up to its highest pitch, afford examples of this dramatic Auctuation

of passion. “ Shakspeare's imagination is of the same plastic kind as his conception of character or passion. It glances from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven.' Its movement is rapid and devious. It unites the most opposite extremes; or, as Puck says, in boasting of his own feats, 'puts a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes.' He seems always hurrying from his subject, even while describing it; but the stroke, like the lightning's, is sure as it is sudden. He takes the widest possible range, but from that very range he has his choice of the greatest variety and aptitude of materials. He brings together images the most alike, but placed at the greatest distance from each other; that is, found in circumstances of the greatest dissimilitude. From the remoteness of his combinations, and the celerity with which they are effected, they coalesce the more indissolubly together. The more the thoughts are strangers to each other, and the longer they have been kept asunder, the more intimate does their union seem to become. Their felicity is equal to their force. Their likeness is made more dazzling by their novelty. They startle, and take the fancy prisoner in the same instant. I will mention one or two which are very striking, and not much known, out of Troilus and Cressida. Æneas says to Agamemnon,

I ask that I may waken reverence,
And on the cheek be ready with a blush
Modest as Morning, when she coldly eyes
The youthful Phæbus.'

Ulysses, urging Achilles to shew himself in the field, says,

No man is the lord of any thing, Till he communicate his parts to others : Nor doth he of himself know them for aught, Till he behold them formed in the applause, Where they're extended ! which, like an arch, reverberates The voice again ; or, like a gate of steel, Fronting the sun, receives and renders hack Its figure and its heat.'

Patrocles gives the indolent warrior the same advice,

* Rouse yourself ; and the weak wanton Cupid
Shall from your neck unloose his amorous fold,
And, like a dewdrop from the lion's mane,
Be shook to air.

Shakspeare's language and versification are like the rest of him. He has a magic power over words: they come winged at his bldding; and seem to know their places. They are struck out at a heat, on the spur of the occasion, and have all the truth and vividness which arise from an actual impression of the objects. His epithets and single phrases are like sparkles, thrown off from an imagination, fired by the whirling rapidity of its own motion. His language is hieroglyphical. It translates thoughts into visible images. It abounds in sudden transitions and elliptical expressions. This is the source of his mixed metaphors, which are only abbreviated forms of speech. These, however, give no pain from long custom.' They have, in fact, become idioms in the language. They are the building, and not the scaffolding to thought. We take the meaning and effect of a well-known passage entire, and no more stop to scan and spell out the particular words and phrases, than the syllables of which they are composed. In trying to recollect any other author, one sometimes stumbles, in case of failure, on a word as good. In Shakspeare, any other word but the true one is sure to be wrong. If any body, for instance, could not recollect the words of the following description,

Light thickens,
And the crow makes wing to the rooky wood,'

he would be greatly at a loss to substitute others for them equally expressive of the feeling.--His versification is no less powerful, sweet, and varied. It has every occasional excellence, of sullen intricacy, crabbed and perplexed, or of the smoothest and loftiest expansion-from the ease and familiarity of measured conversation to the lyrical sounds

Of ditties highly penned,
Sung by a fair queen in a bower of beauty,
With ravishing division, to her lute.'

It is the only blank verse in the language, except Milton's, that for itself is readable. It is not stately and uniformly swelling like his, but varied and broken by the inequalities of the ground it has to pass over in its uncertain course,

• And so by many winding nooks it strays,
With willing sport to the wild ocean.'”

Of Shakspeare as a poet, if the poetical be separated from

the dramatic character, the reader is left to judge from

the following specimens. His poems were among his earliest productions; but the spirit of his mind is clearly discernible in them all. In the “ Rape of Lucrece,” and the “ Venus and Adonis," there is much beautiful description; and many of the sonnets have the sweetness and strength of Shakspeare's dramatic muse. The slighter pieces interspersed with his plays have the airy grace and gay fancy of the best modern lyrics, with the Shaksperian luxuriance of the olden time,



HER lily hand her rosy cheek lies under,
Cozening the pillow of a lawful kiss ;
Who, therefore angry, seems to part in sunder,
Swelling on either side to want his bliss ;
Between whose hills her head entombed is :
Where, like a virtuous monument, she lies,
To be admir'd of lewd unhallow'd eyes.

Without the bed her other fair hand was,
On the green coverlet ; whose perfect white
Show'd like an April daisy on the grass,
With pearly sweat, resembling dew of night.
Her eyes, like marigolds, had sheath'd their light,
And, canopied in darkness, sweetly lay,
Till they might open to adorn the day.

Her hair, like golden threads, play'd with her

breath ; O modest wantons ! wanton modesty! Showing life's triumph in the map of death,

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