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Macbeth as fine stage performances, and the merit of being an admirer of Shakspeare? praise the Mrs. Beverley in the same way A true lover of his excellences he certainly as the Lady Macbeth of Mrs. S.? Belvidera, was not; for would any true lover of them and Calista, and Isabella, and Euphrasia, have admitted into his matchless scenes such are they less liked than Imogen, or than ribald trash as Tate and Cibber, and the Juliet, or than Desdemona? Are they not rest of them, that spoken of and remembered in the same way? Is not the female performer as great (as they call it) in one as in the other? Did not Garrick shine, and was he not ambitious of shining, in every drawling tragedy that his wretched day produced, the productions of the Hills, and the Murphys, and the Browns, --and shall he have that honour to dwell in our minds for ever as an inseparable concomitant with Shakspeare? A kindred mind! O who can read that affecting sonnet of Shakspeare which alludes to his profession as a player :

"With their darkness durst affront his light," have foisted into the acting plays of Shakspeare? I believe it impossible that he could have had a proper reverence for Shakspeare, and have condescended to go through that interpolated scene in Richard the Third, in which Richard tries to break his wife's heart by telling her he loves another woman, and says, "if she survives this she is immortal." Yet I doubt not he delivered this vulgar stuff with as much anxiety of emphasis as any of the genuine parts: and for acting, it is as well calculated as any. But we have seen the part of Richard lately produce great fame to an actor by his manner of playing it, and it lets us into the secret of acting, and of popular judgments of Shakspeare derived from acting. Not one of the spectators who have witnessed Mr. C.'s exertions in that part, but has come away with a proper conviction

Or that other confession :


"Alas! 'tis true, I have gone here and there, And made myself a motley to thy view, Gored mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most that Richard is a very wicked man, and kills little children in their beds, with something like the pleasure which the giants and ogres in children's books are represented to have taken in that practice; moreover, that he is very close and shrewd, and devilish cunning, for you could see that by his eye.

But is, in fact, this the impression we have in reading the Richard of Shakspeare? Do we feel anything like disgust, as we do at that butcher-like representation of him that passes for him on the stage? A horror at his crimes blends with the effect which we feel, but how is it qualified, how is it carried off, by the rich intellect which he displays, his resources, his wit, his buoyant spirits, his vast knowledge and insight into characters, the poetry of his part,-not an atom of all which is made perceivable in Mr. C.'s way of acting it. Nothing but his crimes, his actions, is visible; they are prominent and staring; the murderer stands out, but where is the lofty genius, the man of vast capacity, the profound, the witty, accomplished Richard ?

The truth is, the characters of Shakspeare

"Oh for my sake do you with Fortune chide,
The guilty goddess of my harmless deeds,
That did not better for my life provide
Than public means which public custom breeds-
Thence comes it that my name receives a brand;
And almost thence my nature is subdued
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand."—

Who can read these instances of jealous self-watchfulness in our sweet Shakspeare, and dream of any congeniality between him and one that, by every tradition of him, appears to have been as mere a player as ever existed; to have had his mind tainted with the lowest players' vices,-envy and jealousy, and miserable cravings after applause; one who in the exercise of his profession was jealous even of the womenperformers that stood in his way; a manager full of managerial tricks and stratagems and finesse; that any resemblance should be dreamed of between him and Shakspeare, Shakspeare who, in the plenitude and consciousness of his own powers, could with that noble modesty, which we can neither imitate nor appreciate, express himself thus of his own sense of his own defects :

"Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featured like him, like him with friends possest;
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope."

I am almost disposed to deny to Garrick

are so much the objects of meditation rather So to see Lear acted,-to see an old man than of interest or curiosity as to their tottering about the stage with a walkingactions, that while we are reading any of stick, turned out of doors by his daughters his great criminal characters,-Macbeth, in a rainy night, has nothing in it but what Richard, even Iago,—we think not so much is painful and disgusting. We want to take of the crimes which they commit, as of the him into shelter and relieve him. That is ambition, the aspiring spirit, the intellectual all the feeling which the acting of Lear ever activity, which prompts them to overleap produced in me. But the Lear of Shakspeare these moral fences. Barnwell is a wretched cannot be acted. The contemptible machimurderer; there is a certain fitness between nery by which they mimic the storm which his neck and the rope; he is the legitimate he goes out in, is not more inadequate to heir to the gallows; nobody who thinks at represent the horrors of the real elements, all can think of any alleviating circum- than any actor can be to represent Lear; stances in his case to make him a fit object they might more easily propose to personate of mercy. Or to take an instance from the the Satan of Milton upon a stage, or one of higher tragedy, what else but a mere assassin Michael Angelo's terrible figures. The greatis Glenalvon? Do we think of anything but ness of Lear is not in corporal dimension, of the crime which he commits, and the rack but in intellectual: the explosions of his which he deserves? That is all which we passion are terrible as a volcano; they are really think about him. Whereas in corre- storms turning up and disclosing to the sponding characters in Shakspeare, so little bottom that sea, his mind, with all its vast do the actions comparatively affect us, that riches. It is his mind which is laid bare. while the impulses, the inner mind in all its This case of flesh and blood seems too insigperverted greatness, solely seems real and is nificant to be thought on; even as he himself exclusively attended to, the crime is compa- neglects it. On the stage we see nothing ratively nothing. But when we see these but corporal infirmities and weakness, the things represented, the acts which they do impotence of rage; while we read it, we see are comparatively everything, their impulses not Lear, but we are Lear,—we are in his nothing. The state of sublime emotion into mind, we are sustained by a grandeur which which we are elevated by those images of baffles the malice of daughters and storms; night and horror which Macbeth is made to in the aberrations of his reason, we discover utter, that solemn prelude with which he a mighty irregular power of reasoning, entertains the time till the bell shall strike immethodised from the ordinary purposes of which is to call him to murder Duncan,- life, but exerting its powers, as the wind when we no longer read it in a book, when blows where it listeth, at will upon the we have given up that vantage ground of corruptions and abuses of mankind. What abstraction which reading possesses over have looks, or tones, to do with that sublime seeing, and come to see a man in his bodily identification of his age with that of the shape before our eyes actually preparing to heavens themselves, when, in his reproaches to commit a murder, if the acting be true and them for conniving at the injustice of his impressive, as I have witnessed it in Mr. K.'s children, he reminds them that "they themperformance of that part, the painful anxiety selves are old?" What gesture shall we about the act, the natural longing to prevent appropriate to this? What has the voice or it while it yet seems unperpetrated, the too the eye to do with such things? But the close pressing semblance of reality, give a play is beyond all art, as the tamperings with pain and an uneasiness which totally destroy it show: it is too hard and stony; it must all the delight which the words in the book have love-scenes, and a happy ending. It is convey, where the deed doing never presses not enough that Cordelia is a daughter, she upon us with the painful sense of presence: it must shine as a lover too. Tate has put his rather seems to belong to history,-to some- hook in the nostrils of this Leviathan, for thing past and inevitable, if it has anything Garrick and his followers, the show-men of to do with time at all. The sublime images, the scene, to draw the mighty beast about the poetry alone, is that which is present to more easily. A happy ending!-as if the our minds in the reading. living martyrdom that Lear had gone

through,—the flaying of his feelings alive, did not make a fair dismissal from the stage of life the only decorous thing for him. If in reading is almost exclusively the mind,

and its movements; and this I think may sufficiently account for the very different sort of delight with which the same play so often affects us in the reading and the seeing.

he is to live and be happy after, if he could sustain this world's burden after, why all this pudder and preparation,-why torment us with all this unnecessary sympathy? As if the childish pleasure of getting his gilt robes and sceptre again could tempt him to act over again his misused station-as if, at his years and with his experience, anything was left but to die.

dices. * What we see upon a stage is body and bodily action; what we are conscious of

Lear is essentially impossible to be represented on a stage. But how many dramatic personages are there in Shakspeare, which though more tractable and feasible (if I may so speak) than Lear, yet from some circumstance, some adjunct to their character, are improper to be shown to our bodily eye! Othello for instance. Nothing can be more soothing, more flattering to the nobler parts of our natures, than to read of a young Venetian lady of the highest extraction, Jhrough the force of love and from a sense of merit in him whom she loved, laying aside every consideration of kindred, and country, and colour, and wedding with a coal-black Moor (for such he is represented, in the imperfect state of knowledge respecting foreign countries in those days, compared with our own, or in compliance with popular notions, though the Moors are now well enough known to be by many shades less unworthy of a white woman's fancy)-it is the perfect triumph of virtue over accidents, of the imagination over the senses. She sees Othello's colour in his mind. But upon the stage, when the imagination is no longer the ruling faculty, but we are left to our poor unassisted senses, I appeal to every one that has seen Othello played, whether he did not, on the contrary, sink Othello's mind in his colour; whether he did not find something extremely revolting in the courtship and wedded caresses of Othello and Desdemona ; and whether the actual sight of the thing did not over-weigh all that beautiful compromise which we make in reading;-and the reason it should do so is obvious, because there is just so much reality presented to our senses as to give a perception of disagreement, with not enough of belief in the internal motives, -all that which is unseen,-to overpower and reconcile the first and obvious preju

It requires little reflection to perceive, that if those characters in Shakspeare which are within the precincts of nature, have yet something in them which appeals too exclusively to the imagination, to admit of their being made objects to the senses without suffering a change and a diminution, that still stronger the objection must lie against representing another line of characters, which Shakspeare has introduced to give a wildness and a supernatural elevation to his scenes, as if to remove them still farther from that assimilation to common life in which their excellence is vulgarly supposed to consist. When we read the incantations of those terrible beings the Witches in Macbeth, though some of the ingredients of their hellish composition savour of the grotesque, yet is the effect upon us other than the most serious and appalling that can be imagined? Do we not feel spell-bound as Macbeth was? Can any mirth accompany a sense of their presence? We might as well laugh under a consciousness of the principle of Evil himself being truly and really present with us. But attempt to bring these things on to a stage, and you turn them instantly into so many old women, that men and children are to laugh at. Contrary to the old saying, that "seeing is believing," the sight actually destroys the faith; and the mirth in which we indulge at their expense, when we see these creatures upon a stage, seems to be a sort of indemnification which we make to ourselves for the terror which they put us in when reading made them an object of belief,

• The error of supposing that because Othello's colour does not offend us in the reading, it should also not

offend us in the seeing, is just such a fallacy as supposing that an Adam and Eve in a picture shall affect us But in the poem we for a just as they do in the poem. while have Paradisaical senses given us, which vanish when we see a man and his wife without clothes in the picture. The painters themselves feel this, as is apparent by the awkward shifts they have recourse to, to make them look not quite naked; by a sort of prophetic anachronism, antedating the invention of fig-leaves. So eyes: in the seeing of it, we are forced to look with in the reading of the play, we see with Desdemona's

our own.

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-when we surrendered up our reason to the
poet, as children to their nurses and their
elders; and we laugh at our fears as children,
who thought they saw something in the dark,
triumph when the bringing in of a candle
discovers the vanity of their fears. For this
exposure of supernatural agents upon a stage
is truly bringing in a candle to expose their
own delusiveness. It is the solitary taper
and the book that generates a faith in these
terrors: a ghost by chandelier light, and in
good company, deceives no spectators,- -a
ghost that can be measured by the eye, and
his human dimensions made out at leisure.
The sight of a well-lighted house, and a well-
dressed audience, shall arm the most nervous
child against any apprehensions: as Tom at the Haymarket might as well hope, by

garden with an alcove in it,-a street, or the
piazza of Covent-garden, does well enough
in a scene; we are content to give as much
credit to it as it demands; or rather, we
think little about it,-it is little more than
reading at the top of a page,
"C Scene, a
garden ;" we do not imagine ourselves there,
but we readily admit the imitation of familiar
objects. But to think by the help of painted
trees and caverns, which we know to be
painted, to transport our minds to Prospero,
and his island and his lonely cell; or by
the aid of a fiddle dexterously thrown in, in
an interval of speaking, to make us believe
that we hear those supernatural noises of
which the isle was full: the Orrery Lecturer

Brown says of the impenetrable skin of
Achilles with his impenetrable armour over
it, "Bully Dawson would have fought the
devil with such advantages."

his musical glasses cleverly stationed out of sight behind his apparatus, to make us believe that we do indeed hear the crystal spheres ring out that chime, which if it were to enwrap our fancy long, Milton thinks,

Much has been said, and deservedly, in reprobation of the vile mixture which Dryden has thrown into the Tempest: doubtless without some such vicious alloy, the impure ears of that age would never have sate out to hear so much innocence of love as is contained in the sweet courtship of Ferdinand and Miranda. But is the Tempest of The garden of Eden, with our first parents Shakspeare at all a subject for stage repre- in it, is not more impossible to be shown sentation? It is one thing to read of an on a stage, than the Enchanted isle, with enchanter, and to believe the wondrous tale its no less interesting and innocent first while we are reading it; but to have a settlers. conjuror brought before us in his conjuringgown, with his spirits about him, which none but himself and some hundred of favoured spectators before the curtain are supposed to see, involves such a quantity of the hateful incredible, that all our reverence for the author cannot hinder us from perceiving such gross attempts upon the senses to be in the highest degree childish and inefficient. Spirits and fairies cannot be represented, they cannot even be painted,-they can only be believed. But the elaborate and anxious provision of scenery, which the luxury of the age demands, in these cases works a quite contrary effect to what is intended. That which in comedy, or plays of familiar life, adds so much to the life of the imitation, in plays which appeal to the higher faculties positively destroys the illusion which it is introduced to aid. A parlour or a drawingroom,—a library opening into a garden-a

The subject of Scenery is closely connected with that of the Dresses, which are so anxiously attended to on our stage. I remember the last time I saw Macbeth played, the discrepancy I felt at the changes of garment which he varied, the shiftings and re-shiftings, like a Romish priest at mass. The luxury of stage-improvements, and the importunity of the public eye, require this. The coronation robe of the Scottish monarch was fairly a counterpart to that which our King wears when he goes to the Parliamenthouse, just so full and cumbersome, and set out with ermine and pearls. And if things must be represented, I see not what to find fault with in this. But in reading, what

"Time would run back and fetch the age of gold,
And speckled Vanity

Would sicken soon and die,

And leprous Sin would melt from earthly mould;
Yea, Hell itself would pass away,
And leave its dolorous mansions to the peering day."

But pictures and

It will be said these things are done in pictures. scenes are very different things. Painting is a world of itself, but in scene-painting there is the attempt to deceive: and there is the discordancy, never to be got over, between painted scenes and real people.

robe are we conscious of? Some dim images wants to see the pictures? But in the acting, of royalty a crown and sceptre may float a miniature must be lugged out; which we before our eyes, but who shall describe the know not to be the picture, but only to show fashion of it? Do we see in our mind's eye how finely a miniature may be represented. what Webb or any her robe-maker could This showing of everything levels all things: pattern? This is the inevitable consequence it makes tricks, bows, and curtseys, of imof imitating everything, to make all things portance. Mrs. S. never got more fame by natural. Whereas the reading of a tragedy anything than by the manner in which she is a fine abstraction. It presents to the dismisses the guests in the banquet-scene in fancy just so much of external appearances Macbeth: it is as much remembered as any as to make us feel that we are among of her thrilling tones or impressive looks. flesh and blood, while by far the greater But does such a trifle as this enter into the and better part of our imagination is imaginations of the readers of that wild and employed upon the thoughts and internal wonderful scene? Does not the mind dismachinery of the character. But in act- miss the feasters as rapidly as it can? Does ing, scenery, dress, the most contemptible it care about the gracefulness of the doing things, call upon us to judge of their it? But by acting, and judging of acting, naturalness. all these non-essentials are raised into an importance, injurious to the main interest of the play.

Perhaps it would be no bad similitude, to liken the pleasure which we take in seeing one of these fine plays acted, compared with that quiet delight which we find in the reading of it, to the different feelings with which a reviewer, and a man that is not a reviewer, reads a fine poem. The accursed critical habit the being called upon to judge and pronounce, must make it quite a different thing to the former. In seeing these plays run will make it, I am afraid, sufficiently acted, we are affected just as judges. distasteful to the Amateurs of the Theatre, When Hamlet compares the two pictures of without going any deeper into the subject at Gertrude's first and second husband, who present.

I have confined my observations to the tragic parts of Shakspeare. It would be no very difficult task to extend the inquiry to his comedies; and to show why Falstaff, Shallow, Sir Hugh Evans, and the rest, are equally incompatible with stage representation. The length to which this Essay has



WHEN I selected for publication, in 1808, unimpassioned deities, passionate mortals Specimens of English Dramatic Poets who-Claius, and Medorus, and Amintas, and lived about the time of Shakspeare, the kind Amaryllis. My leading design was to illusof extracts which I was anxious to give trate what may be called the moral sense of were not so much passages of wit and our ancestors. To show in what manner humour, though the old plays are rich in they felt, when they placed themselves by such, as scenes of passion, sometimes of the the power of imagination in trying circumdeepest quality, interesting situations, seri- stances, in the conflicts of duty and passion, ous descriptions, that which is more nearly or the strife of contending duties; what allied to poetry than to wit, and to tragic sort of loves and enmities theirs were; how rather than to comic poetry. The plays their griefs were tempered, and their fullwhich I made choice of were, with few swoln joys abated: how much of Shakspeare exceptions, such as treat of human life and shines in the great men his contemporaries, manners, rather than masques and Arcadian and how far in his divine mind and manners pastorals, with their train of abstractions, he surpassed them and all mankind. I was

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