Sidor som bilder

mother's womb, that brought thee first into this world. And I may not defer to see the day, either that my son be led prisoner in triumph by his natural countrymen, or that he himself do triumph of them, and of his natural country. For if it were so, that my request tended to save thy country, in destroying the Volces, I must confess, thou wouldest hardly and doubtfully resolve on that. For as to destroy thy natural country, it is altogether unmeet and unlawful, so were it not just and less honourable to betray those that put their trust in thee. But my only demand consisteth, to make a goal delivery of all evils, which delivereth equal benefit and safety, both to the one and the other, but most honourable for the Volces. For it shall appear, that having victory in their hands, they have of special favour granted us singular graces, peace and amity, albeit themselves have no less part of both than we. Of which good, if so it came to pass, thyself is the only author, and so hast thou the only honour. But if it fail, and fall out contrary, thyself alone deservedly shalt carry the shameful reproach and burthen of either party. So, though the end of war be uncertain, yet this notwithstanding is most certain, that if it be thy chance to conquer, this benefit shalt thou reap of thy goodly conquest, to be chronicled the plague and destroyer of thy country. And if fortune overthrow thee, then the world will say, that through desire to revenge thy private injuries, thou hast for ever undone thy good friends, who did most lovingly and courteously receive thee.' Martius gave good ear unto his mother's words, without interrupting her speech at all, and after she had said what she would, he held his peace a pretty while, and answered not a word. Hereupon she began again to speak unto him, and said: 'My son, why dost thou not answer me? Dost thou think it good altogether to give place unto thy choler and desire of revenge, and thinkest thou it not honesty for thee to grant thy mother's request in so weighty a cause? Dost thou take it honourable for a nobleman to remember the wrongs and injuries done him, and dost not in like case think it an honest nobleman's part to be thankful for the goodness that parents do shew to their children, acknowledging the duty and reverence they ought to bear unto them? No man

living is more bound to shew himself thankful in all parts and respects than thyself; who so universally shewest all ingratitude. Moreover, my son, thou hast sorely taken of thy country, exacting grievous payments upon them, in revenge of the injuries offered thee; besides, thou hast not

hitherto shewed thy poor mother any courtesy. And therefore, it is not only honest but due unto me, that without compulsion I should obtain my so just and reasonable request of thee. But since by reason I cannot persuade thee to it, to what purpose do I defer my last hope.' And with these words, herself, his wife and children, fell down upon their knees before him: Martius seeing that, could refrain no longer, but went straight and lifted her up, crying out, 'Oh mother, what have you done to me?' And holding her hard by the hand, 'Oh mother,' said he, 'you have won a happy victory for your country, but mortal and unhappy for your son for I see myself vanquished by you alone.' These words being spoken openly, he spake a little apart with his mother and wife, and then let them return again to Rome, for so they did request him; and so remaining in the camp that night, the next morning he dislodged, and marched homeward unto the Volces' country again."

Shakespear has, in giving a dramatic form to this passage, adhered very closely and properly to the text. He did not think it necessary to improve upon the truth of nature. Several of the scenes in Julius Cæsar, particularly Portia's appeal to the confidence of her husband by shewing him the wound she had given herself, and the appearance of the ghost of Cæsar to Brutus, are in like manner taken from the history.


THIS is one of the most loose and desultory of our author's plays: it rambles on just as it happens, but it overtakes, together with some indifferent matter, a prodigious number of fine things in its way. Troilus himself is no character: he is merely a common lover: but Cressida and her uncle Pandarus are hit off with proverbial truth. By the speeches given to the leaders of the Grecian host, Nestor, Ülysses, Agamemnon, Achilles, Shakespear seems to have known them as well as if he had been a spy sent by the Trojans into the enemy's camp-to say nothing of their affording very lofty examples of didactic eloquence. The following is a very stately and spirited declamation :

"Ulysses. Troy, yet upon her basis, had been down, And the great Hector's sword had lack'd a master, But for these instances.

The specialty of rule hath been neglected.

[blocks in formation]

The heavens themselves, the planets, and this center,
Observe degree, priority, and place,
Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
Office, and custom, in all line of order:
And therefore is the glorious planet, Sol,
In noble eminence, enthron'd and spher'd
Amidst the other, whose med'cinable eye
Corrects the ill aspects of planets evil,
And posts, like the commandment of a king,

Sans check, to good and bad. But, when the planets,
In evil mixture to disorder wander,

What plagues, and what portents? what mutinies ?
What raging of the sea? shaking of the earth?

Commotion in the winds? frights, changes, horrors,
Divert and crack, rend and deracinate

The unity and married calm of states

Quite from their fixture! O, when degree is shaken,
(Which is the ladder to all high designs)

Then enterprize is sick! How could communities,
Degrees in schools, and brotherhoods in cities,
Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
The primogenitive and due of birth,
Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels,
(But by degree) stand in authentic place?
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And hark what discord follows! each thing meets
In mere oppugnancy. The bounded waters
Would lift their bosoms higher than the shores,
And make a sop of all this solid globe :
Strength would be lord of imbecility,

And the rude son would strike his father dead:
Force would be right; or rather right and wrong
(Between whose endless jar Justice resides)
Would lose their names, and so would Justice too.
Then every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;

And appetite (an universal wolf,

So doubly seconded with will and power)
Must make perforce an universal prey,

And last eat up himself. Great Agamemnon,
This chaos, when degree is suffocate,

Follows the choking:

And this neglection of degree it is,

That by a pace goes backward, with a purpose
It hath to climb. The general's disdained
By him one step below; he, by the next;
That next, by him beneath : so every step,
Exampled by the first pace that is sick
Of his superior, grows to an envious fever
Of pale and bloodless emulation;

And 'tis this fever that keeps Troy on foot,

Not her own sinews. To end a tale of length,

Troy in our weakness stands, not in her strength."

It cannot be said of Shakespear, as was said of some one, that he was "without o'erflowing full." He was full, even to o'erflowing. He gave heaped measure, running over. This was his greatest fault.

He was only in danger "of losing distinction in his thoughts" (to borrow his own expression)

"As doth a battle when they charge on heaps The enemy flying."

There is another passage, the speech of Ulysses to Achilles, shewing him the thankless nature of popularity, which has a still greater depth of moral observation and richness of illustration than the former. It is long, but worth the quoting. The sometimes giving an entire argument from the unacted plays of our author may with one class of readers have almost the use of restoring a lost passage; and may serve to convince another class of critics, that the poet's genius was not confined to the production of stage effect by preternatural means.—


Ulysses. Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back, Wherein he puts alms for Oblivion ;

A great-siz'd monster of ingratitudes :

Those scraps are good deeds past, which are devour'd
As fast as they are made, forgot as soon

As done. Persev'rance, dear my lord,

Keeps Honour bright: to have done, is to hang
Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail

In monumental mockery. Take the instant way;
For Honour travels in a strait so narrow,

Where one but goes abreast; keep then the path,
For Emulation hath a thousand sons,
That one by one pursue; if you give way,
Or hedge aside from the direct forth right,
Like to an entered tide, they all rush by,
And leave you hindmost ;-

Or, like a gallant horse fall'n in first rank,

O'er-run and trampled on : then what they do in present, Tho' less than your's in past must o'ertop your's :

For Time is like a fashionable host,

That slightly shakes his parting guest by th' hand,
And with his arms outstretch'd, as he would fly,
Grasps in the comer: welcome ever smiles,

And farewell goes out sighing. O, let not virtue seek
Remuneration for the thing it was; for beauty, wit,
High birth, vigour of bone, desert in service,

« FöregåendeFortsätt »