The Age of Shakespeare eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 244 pages of information about The Age of Shakespeare.
can be livelier and more natural than the scenes in which a recent bridegroom’s heart is won from his loving and low-born wife by the offered hand and the sprightly seductions of a light-hearted and high-born rival.  But the crowning scene of the play and the crowning grace of the poem is the interview of father and daughter after the consummation of the crime which gave Spain into the hand of the Moor.  The vivid dramatic life in every word is even more admirable than the great style, the high poetic spirit of the scene.  I have always ventured to wonder that Lamb, whose admiration has made it twice immortal, did not select as a companion or a counterpart to it that other great camp scene from Webster’s “Appius and Virginia” in which another outraged warrior and father stirs up his friends and fellow-soldiers to vindication of his honor and revenge for his wrong.  It is surely even finer and more impressive than that selected in preference to it, which closes with the immolation of Virginia.

The scenes in which the tragic underplot of Rowley’s tragedy is deftly and effectively wound up are full of living action and passion; that especially in which the revenge of a deserted wife is wreaked mistakingly on the villanous minion to whose instigation she owes the infidelity of the husband for whom she mistakes him.  The gross physical horrors which deform the close of a noble poem are relieved if not beautified by the great style of its age—­an age unparalleled in wealth and variety of genius, a style unmatchable for its union of inspired and imaginative dignity with actual and vivid reality of impassioned and lofty life.

No comparison is possible, nor if possible could it be profitable, between the somewhat rough-hewn English oak of Rowley’s play and the flawless Roman steel of Landor’s great Miltonic tragedy on the same subject.  The fervent praise of Southey was not too generous to be just in its estimate of that austere masterpiece; it is lamentable to remember the injustice of its illustrious author to the men of Shakespeare’s day.  I fear he would certainly not have excepted the noble work of his precursor from his general condemnation or impreachment of “their bloody bawdries”—­a misjudgment gross enough for Hallam—­or Voltaire when declining to the level of a Hallam.  Landor was as headlong as these were hidebound, as fitful as they were futile; but not even the dispraise or the disrelish of a finer if not of a greater dramatic poet could affect the credit or impair the station of one on whose merits the final sentence of appreciation has been irrevocably pronounced by the verdict of Charles Lamb.


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The Age of Shakespeare from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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