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which gives us an elevation above the infirmities which flesh is heir to, and identifies us with the nobleness of soul and strength of character which shed “a glory" round their heads.
Heywood, like many of our old dramatists, deals in the extreme of character, which frequently amounts to heroism. His heroes are of unshaken purpose, of irresistible patience ; men who will stand beneath the sword suspended by a single hair; and, with the power of motion, still resolutely bide the consequence. The point of honour is discriminated with the most subtle nicety; a vow is considered as registered in heaven; it is the sentence of fate, and must be equally inexorable. The spirit, however, is frequently sacrificed to the letter, and the good and the true are disregarded, to preserve a consistency with a supposed virtue--a sort of character better calculated to supply, from the passionate and deep internal conflicts which it occasions, affecting subjects for the stage, than useful example or instruction for human happiness. To some, this character will appear unnatural; and so it would be, if man were left to his own natural tendencies; but, if we grant the existence of the artificial notions of honour and virtue, on which it is founded, then the characters are perfectly consistent and natural, although acting under a false impression of what is right and just. Fancy, for instance, a generous, honest, and valiant gentleman, induced by a noble duke to convey a letter to an unyielding lady, who is, as that gentleman conceives, unknown to him; and, by the duke's dictation, who suspects that he is more intimately connected with her than is agreeable to his grace's interest, to swear that he will not cast an amorous look on her, speak“ no familiar syllable, touch, or come near her bosom,” &c. Fancy him hastening to perform the duke's behests, and discovering, to his amazement, that he has undertaken to solicit his own wife for another. Imagine him tricked into a vow, in total ignorance of the circumstances, and resolving to bind himself to so unjust a stipulation, the effect of wbich is to make two persons miserable, and not to make the third happy; yet, Heywood makes Spencer, in “ The Fair Maid of the West,” rigidly perform this vow, and leave his mistress in a swoon, without attempting to render her any assistance. The consequence is, that the Fair Maid of the West, the lady in question, is under the necessity of tricking the duke into another vow, in order to get out of the difficulty.
These exaggerated situations, however, are mixed with others of the deepest feeling, the most glorious overflowings of the affections, the kindest sympathies, the tenderest sentiments. Heywood knew well the nature of human passions, but he threw them into extravagant positions. He was, says Lamb, " a sort of prose Shakspeare.”
Shakspeare.” He caught the mantle of Elijah, but not before it touched the earth, and therefore was he peculiarly human in his delineations of passion. He did not deal skilfully with the invisible world, and yet he was not altogether unacquainted with "the winged spirits of the air;" he introduces them gracefully in “ Love's Mistress," one of the most beautiful and purest of masques founded upon classical mythology.
In a rank, in many respects considerably above the plays we first mentioned, we must place the “ Rape of Lucrece, one of the most wild, irregular, and unaccountable productions of his age. Amongst the most extravagant buffoonery, we find sparks of genius which would do honour to any dramatist; touches of feeling, to which no reader can be indifferent. The extracts we shall make from the scene in which the crime is perpetrated, and from that which immediately follows, are of this description. The dreadful consummation is preceded by an awful note of preparation : a solemn pause in the stride of guilt, which makes the boldest hold his breath, and is succeeded by a display of the most exquisitely touching grief.
Sextus. Night, be as secret as thou art close, as close
And contempt of base; the incurr'd vengeance
[Lucrece discovered in her bed.
Luc. Whose that? oh me! beshrew you.
Sex. Why do you tremble, lady? cease this fear;
Luc. Dream I, or am I full awake? oh no!
For Rome's imperial diadem: oh then
Sex. I'm bent on both; my thoughts are all on fire;
Sex. If not thy love, thou must enjoy thy foe.
Sex. I'm all impatience, violence, and rage,
Luc. No, I cannot.
Luc. By a god you swear
Sex. These pillows first shall stop thy breath,
Luc. For death I care not, so I keep unstain'd
Sex. Thou can'st keep neither, for if thou but squeak'st,
Luc. I'll die first; and yet hear me, as you're noble:
Cannot be made again: this once defil'd,
Sex. Tush, I am obdure.
Luc. Then make my name foul, keep my body pure.
done a chaste wife, And think that labour's not worth all
Sex. No, those moist tears contending with my fire,
Sex. If thou raise these cries, lodg'd in thy slaughter'd Arms some base
dies. And Rome, that hath admir'd thy name so long, Shall blot thy death with scandal from my tongue.
Luc. Jove guard my innocence!
Sex. Lucrece, thou art mine,
[he bears her out.
“ Luc. Mirable.