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extort the secret of the conspiracy from him, is conceived in the most heroical spirit, and the burst of tenderness in Brutus
"You are my true and honourable wife;
is justified by her whole behaviour. Portia's breathless impatience to learn the event of the conspiracy, in the dialogue with Lucius, is full of passion. The interest which Portia takes in Brutus, and that which Calphurnia takes in the fate of Cæsar, are discriminated with the nicest precision. Mark Antony's speech over the dead body of Casar has been justly admired for the mixture of pathos and artifice in it: that of Brutus certainly is not so good.
The entrance of the conspirators to the house of Brutus at midnight is rendered very impressive. In the midst of this scene, we meet with one of those careless and natural digressions which occur so frequently and beautifully in Shakspeare. After Cassius has introduced his friends one by one, Brutus
"They are all welcome.
What watchful cares do interpose themselves
Betwixt your eyes and night?
Cassius. Shall I entreat a word?
Decius. Here lies the east: doth not the day break here?
Cinna. O pardon, Sir, it doth; and yon grey lines,
Casca You shall confess, that you are both deceiv'd:
Here, as I point my sword, the sun arises,
Which is a great way growing on the south,
Weighing the youthful season of the year.
Some two months hence, up higher toward the north
We cannot help thinking this graceful familiarity better than all the formality in the world. The truth of history in JULIUS CESAR is very ably worked up with dramatick effect. The councils of generals, the doubtful turns of battles are represented to the life. The death of Brutus is worthy of him-it has the dignity of the Roman senator with the firmness of the Stoick philosopher. But what is perhaps better than either, is the little incident of his boy, Lucius falling asleep over his instrument, as he is playing to his master in his tent, the night before the battle. Nature had played him the same forgetful trick once before on the night of the conspiracy. The humanity of Brutus is the same on both occasions.
"It is no matter:
Enjoy the honey-heavy dew of slumber.
Which busy care draws in the brains of men.
Ir has been said that tragedy purifies the affections by terrour and pity. That is, it substitutes imaginary sympathy for mere selfishness. It gives us a high and permanent interest, beyond ourselves, in humanity as such. It raises the great, the remote, and the possible to an equality with the real, the little and the near. It makes man a partaker with his kind. It subdues and softens the stubbornness of his will. It teaches him that there are and have been others like himself, by shewing him, as in a glass, what they have felt, thought, and done. It opens the chambers of the human heart. It leaves nothing indifferent to us that can affect our common nature. It excites our sensibility by exhibiting the passions wound up to the utmost pitch by the power of imagination or the temptation of circumstances; and corrects their fatal excesses in ourselves, by pointing to the greater extent of sufferings and of crimes to which they have led others. Tragedy creates a balance of the affections. It makes us thoughtful spectators in the lists of life. It is the refiner of the
species; a discipline of humanity. The habitual study of poetry and works of imagination is one chief part of a well grounded education. A taste for liberal art is necessary to complete the character of a gentleman. Science alone is hard and mechanical. It exercises the understanding upon things out of ourselves, while it leaves the affections unemployed, or engrossed with our own immediate, narrow interests.-OTHELLO furnishes an illustration of these remarks. It excites our sympathy in an extraordinary degree. The moral it conveys has a closer application to the concerns of human life than that of any other of Shakspeare's plays. "It comes directly home to the bosoms and business of men." The pathos in Lear is indeed more dreadful and overpowering but it is less natural, and less of every day's occurrence. We have not the same degree of sympathy with the passions described in Macbeth. The interest in Hamlet is more remote and reflex. That of Othello is at once equally profound and affecting.
The picturesque contrasts of character in this play are almost as remarkable as the depth of the passion. The Moor Othello, the gentle Desdemona, the villain lago, the good natured Cassio, the fool Roderigo, present a range and variety of character as striking and palpable as that produced by the opposition of costume in a picture. Their distinguishing qualities stand out to the mind's eye, so that even when we are not thinking of their actions or sentiments, the idea of their persons is still as present to us as ever. These characters and the images
they stamp upon the mind are the farthest asunder possible, the distance between them is immense : yet the compass of knowledge and invention, which the poet has shewn in embodying these extreme creations of his genius, is only greater than the truth and felicity, with which he has identified each character with itself, or blended their different qualities together in the same story. What a contrast the character of Othello forms to that of Iago: at the same time, the force of conception, with which these two figures are opposed to each other, is rendered still more intense by the complete consistency with which the traits of each character are brought out in a state of the highest finishing. The making one black and the other white, the one unprincipled, the other unfortunate in the extreme, would have answered the common purposes of effect, and satisfied the ambition of an ordinary painter of character. Shakspeare has laboured the finer shades of difference in both, with as much care and skill, as if he had had to depend on the execution alone for the success of his design. On the other hand, Desdemona and Æmilia are not meant to be opposed with any thing like strong contrast to each other. Both are, to outward appearance, characters of common life, not more distinguished than women usually are, by difference of rank and situation. The difference of their thoughts and sentiments is however laid as open, their minds are separated from each other by signs as plain and as little to be mistaken, as the complexions of their husbands.