Puslapio vaizdai

of their enemies. He excites tender pity, by mentioning the stab given by his beloved Brutus. The remark that he fell as a victim at the feet of Pompey's ftatue, whom the lower fort confidered as of a party unfavorable to them, is another happy stroke in this piece. I am forry that I must differ from the opinion of our commentator, who thinks the words, "O what a fall was there!" related to that circumftance; it feems rather to refer to what immediately follows:


[ocr errors]

Then I, and you, and all of us fell down:

Whilst bloody treason flourish'd over us. Meaning how the general ftate of the republic was affected by the fall of so great a man. As the illiterate people are afraid of being impofed upon by the arts of the learned and the eloquent, he very judiciously affures them he is no orator. The refinements of the French theatre, perhaps, would not endure the mob of Plebeians that appear in this scene. The fickle humour of the people, and the influence of eloquence upon their minds, are truly exhibited; and I must



own, as the imitation is so just, though the original may be called mean, I think it is not to be entirely condemned: one might perhaps with the part of the mob had been fhorter. The miferable conceit of Cæfar's blood rushing out of the wound to ask who fo unkindly knocked, is indefenfible. The repetition of the words, honourable men, is perhaps too frequent.

The oration of Brutus, in many parts, is quaint and affected, an unhappy attempt, as the learned commentator obferves, to imitate that brevity and fimplicity of expreffion, of which this noble Roman was a profeffed admirer. Our author, who followed with great exactness every circumftance mentioned in Plutarch, would probably have attempted to give to Antony the pomp of Afiatic eloquence, if his good fense had not informed him, that to be pathetic it is neceffary to be fimple.

The quarrel between Brutus and Caffius does not by any means deferve the ridicule



[ocr errors]


thrown upon it by the French critic. The characters of the men are well fuftained: it is natural, it is interefting; but it rather retards than brings forward the catastrophe, and is useful only in fetting Brutus in a good light. A fublime genius, in all its operations, facrifices little things to great, and parts to the whole. Modern criticism dwells on minute articles. The principal object of our poet was to intereft the spectator for Brutus; to do this he was to fhew, that his temper was the furtheft imaginable from any thing ferocious or fanguinary, and by his behaviour to his wife, his friends; his fervants, to demonftrate, that out of refpect to public liberty, he made as difficult a conqueft over his natural difpofition, as his great predeceffor had done for the like cause over natural affection. Clemency and humanity add luftre to the greatest hero; but here thefe fentiments determine the whole character of the man, and the colour of his deed. The victories of Alexander, Cæfar, and Hannibal, whether their wars were juft or unjust, must obtain for




them the laurel wreath, which is the ambition of conquerors: but the act of Brutus In killing Cæfar, was of fuch an ambiguous kind, as to receive its denomination from the motive by which it was fuggefted; it is that which must fix upon him the name of patriot or affaffin. Our author, therefore, fhews great judgment in taking various opportunities to difplay the foftness and gentleness of Brutus: the little circumstance of his forbearing to awaken the fervant who was playing to him on the lute, is very beautiful; for one cannot conceive, that he whose tender humanity respected the slumber of his boy Lucilius, would from malice or cruelty, have cut fhort the important and illuftrious course of Cæfar's life.

Shakespear feems to have aimed at giving an exact representation on the stage, of all the events and characters comprehended in Plutarch's life of Marcus Brutus; and he has wonderfully executed his plan. One may perhaps wish, that a writer, poffeffed of all the magic of poetical powers, had not $ 2 fo

fo fcrupulously confined himself within the limits of true hiftory. The regions of imagination, in which the poet is allowed an arbitrary sway, seem his proper dominion. There he reigns like Pluto over fhadows huge and terrible, of mighty and august appearance, but yielding and unrefifting. The terra firma of real life, and the open day-light of truth, forbid many pleafing delufions, and produce difficulties too stubborn to yield to his art. On this folid foundation however our author knew he could always establish a strong interest for his piece. Great knowledge of the human heart had informed him, how easy it is to excite a sympathy with things believed real. He knew too, that curiofity is a strong appetite, and that every incident connected with a great event, and every particularity belonging to a great character, engages the fpectator. He wrote to please an untaught people, guided wholly by their feelings, and to those feelings he applied, and they are often touched by circumstances that have not dignity and * fplendor enough to please the eye accustomed


« AnkstesnisTęsti »