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ideal whereabout some of the wonders of Transatlantic discovery. I should almost as soon think of going to history for the characters of Ariel and Caliban, as to geography for the size, locality, or whatsoever else, of their dwelling-place. And it is to be noted that the old ballad just referred to seems to take for granted that the island was but an island of the mind; representing it to have disappeared upon Prospero's leaving it :
From that day forth the isle has been
Some say 'tis buried deep
Nor e'er is known to sleep.
The Tempest is on all hands regarded as one of Shakepeare's perfectest works. Some of his plays, I should say, have beams in their eyes; but this has hardly so much as a möte; or, if it have any motes, my own eyes are not clear enough to discern them. I dare not pronounce the work faultless, for this is too much to affirm of any human workmanship; but I venture to think that whatever faults it may have are such as criticism is hardly competent to specify. In the characters of Ariel, Miranda, and Caliban, we have three of the most unique and original conceptions that ever sprang from the wit of man. We can scarce imagine how the Ideal could be pushed further beyond Nature; yet we here find it clothed with all the truth and life of Nature. And the whole texture of incident and circumstance is framed in keeping with that Ideal ; so that all the parts and particulars cohere together, mutually supporting and supported.
The leading sentiment naturally inspired by the scenes of this drama is, I believe, that of delighted wonder. And such, as appears from the heroine's name, Miranda, who is the potency of the drama, is probably the sentiment which the play was meant to inspire. But the grace and efficacy in which the workmanship is steeped are so etherial and so fine, that they can hardly be discoursed in any but the poetic form :
may well be doubted whether Criticism has any fingers delicate enough to grasp them. So much is this the case, that it seemed to me quite doubtful whether I should do well to undertake the theme at all. For Criticism is necessarily obliged to substitute, more or less, the forms of logic for those of art; and art, it scarce need be said, can do many things that are altogether beyond the reach of logic. On the other hand, the charm and verdure of these scenes are so unwithering and inexhaustible, that I could not quite make up my mind to leave the subject untried. Nor do I know how I can better serve my countrymen than by engaging and helping them in the study of this great inheritance of natural wisdom and unreproved delight. For, assuredly, if they early learn to be at home and to take pleasure in Shakespeare's workmanship, their whole after-life will be the better and the happier for it.
Coleridge says “The Tempest is a specimen of the purely romantic drama." The term romantic is here used in a technical sense ; that is, to distinguish the Shakespearian from the Classic Drama. In this sense, I cannot quite agree with the great critic that the drama is purely romantic. Highly romantic it certainly is, in its wide, free, bold variety of character and incident, and in all the qualities that enter into the picturesque ; yet not romantic in such sort, I think, but that it is at the same time equally classic; classic,
not only in that the unities of time and place are strictly observed, but as having the other qualities which naturally go with those laws of the classic form ; in its severe beauty and majestic simplicity, its interfusion of the lyrical and ethical, and in the mellow atmosphere of serenity and composure which envelopes it: as if on purpose to show the Poet's mastery not only of both the Classic and Romantic Drama, but of the common Nature out of which both of them grew. This union of both kinds in one without hindrance to the distinctive qualities of either, - this it is, I think, that chiefly distinguishes The Tempest from the Poet's other dramas. Some have thought that in this play Shakespeare specially undertook to silence the pedantic cavillers of his time by showing that he could keep to the rules of the Greek stage, if he chose to do so, without being any the less himself. But it seems more likely that he was here drawn into such a course by the leading of his own wise spirit than by the cavils of contemporary critics; the form appearing too cognate with the matter to have been dictated by any thing external to the work itself.
There are some points that naturally suggest a comparison between The Tempest and A Midsummer-Night's Dream. In both the Poet has with equal or nearly equal success carried Nature, as it were, beyond herself, and peopled a purely ideal region with the attributes of life and reality ; so that the characters touch us like substantive, personal beings, as if he had but described, not created them. But, beyond this, the resemblance ceases : indeed no two of his plays differ more widely in all other respects.
The Tempest presents a combination of elements apparently so incongruous that we cannot but marvel how they were brought together; yet they blend so sweetly, and cooperate so smoothly, that we at once feel at home with them, and see nothing to hinder their union in the world of which we are a part. For in the mingling of the natural and the supernatural we here find no gap, no break; nothing dis- ** jointed or abrupt; the two being drawn into each other so harmoniously, and so knit together by mutual participations, that they seem strictly continuous, with no distinguishable line to mark where they meet and join. It is as if the gulf which apparently separates the two worlds had been abolished, leaving nothing to prevent a free circulation and intercourse between them.
Prospero, standing in the centre of the whole, acts as a kind of subordinate Providence, reconciling the diverse elements to himself and in himself to one another. Though armed with supernatural might, so that the winds and waves obey him, his magical and mysterious powers are tied to truth and right : his “high charms work” to none but just and beneficent ends; and whatever might be repulsive in the magician is softened and made attractive by the virtues of the man and the feelings of the father : Ariel links him with the world above us, Caliban with the world beneath us, and Miranda “thee, my dear one, thee my daughter' with the world around and within us. And the mind acquiesces freely in the miracles ascribed to him ; his thoughts and aims being so at one with Nature's inward harmonies, that we cannot tell whether he shapes her movements or merely falls in with them; that is, whether his art stands in submission or command. His
indeed is the sorcery of knowledge, his magic the magic of virtue. For what so marvellous as the inward, vital necromancy of good which
transmutes the wrongs that are done him into motives of beneficence, and is so far from being hurt by the powers of Evil, that it turns their assaults into new sources of strength against them? And with what a smooth tranquillity of spirit he everywhere speaks and acts ! as if the discipline of adversity had but served
to elevate the will, And lead him on to that transcendent rest Where every passion doth the sway attest
Of Reason seated on her sovereign hill. Shakespeare and Bacon, the Prince of poets and the Prince of philosophers, wrought out their mighty works side by side, and nearly at the same time, though without any express recognition of each other. And why may we not regard Prospero as prognosticating in a poetical form those vast triumphs of man's rational spirit which the philosopher foresaw and prepared ? For it is observable that, before Pros pero's coming to the island, the powers which cleave to his thoughts and obey his so potent art” were at perpetual war, the better being in subjection to the worse, and all being turned from their rightful ends into a mad, brawling dissonance : but he teaches them to know their places; and, “weak masters though they be," without such guidance, yet under his ordering they become powerful, and work together as if endowed with a rational soul and a social purpose; their insane gabble turning to speech, their savage howling to music; so that
the isle is full of noises, Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not. Wherein is boldly figured the educating of Nature up, so to speak, into intelligent ministries, she lending man hands because he lends her eyes, and weaving her forces into vital union with him.