« PreviousContinue »
SPOKEN BY PROSPERO.
NOW my charms are all o'erthrown,
7 With the help of your good hands.] By your applause, by clapping hands. Johnson.
Noise was supposed to dissolve a spell. So, twice before in
“ No tongue; all eyes; be silent.” Again :
hush! be mute; “ Or else our spell is marrd.” Again, in Macbeth, Act IV. Sc. I. :
“ Hear his speech, but say thou nought." Again, ibid:
“Listen, but speak not to't." Steevens. 8 And my ending is despair,
Unless I be reliev'd by prayer;} This alludes to the old stories told of the despair of necromancers in their last moments, and of the efficacy of the prayers of their friends for them.
Which pierces so, that it assaults
from crimes would pardon'd be, Let your indulgence set me free'.
9 It is observed of The Tempest, that its plan is regular ; this the author of The Revisal thinks, what I think too, an accidental effect of the story, not intended or regarded by our author. But, whatever might be Shakspeare's intention in forming or adopting the plot, he has made it instrumental to the production of many characters, diversified with boundless invention, and preserved with profound skill in nature, extensive knowledge of opinions, and accurate observation of life. In a single drama are here exhibited princes, courtiers, and sailors, all speaking in their real characters. There is the agency of airy spirits, and of an earthly goblin. The operations of magick, the tumults of a storm, the adventures of a desert island, the native effusion of untaught affection, the punishment of guilt, and the final happiness of the pair for whom our passions and reason are equally interested.
Johnson. Dr. Johnson, in a note on the first scene of this play, has observed upon the authority of a skilful navigator, that the naval dialogue is incorrect. See p. 19, n.l. I am happy to have it in my power to present the reader with a most satisfactory refutation of this criticism from the pen of a distinguished naval officer, the right honourable Constantine, the second Lord Mulgrave, for which Mr. Malone was indebted to the kindness of Sir George Beaumont. Boswell.
The first scene of The Tempest is a very striking instance of the great accuracy of Shakspeare's knowledge in a professional science, the most difficult to attain without the help of experience. He must have acquired it by conversation with some of the most skilful seamen of that time. No books had then been published on the subject. The first publication, in the year 1626, was,
« An Accidence or Pathway to Experience, necessary for all young Seamen, or those that are desirous of going to Sea ;" by Captain John Smith, some time Governor of Virginia, and Admiral of New England. In his Dedication he says, “ I have been persuaded to print this Discourse, being a subject I never see writ before.” His book is very short, there is an example of a ship carried through a variety of situations, with all the words of command expressed ; there are several of these of Shakspeare intermixed with many others of more detail.
The next book on the subject was the Seaman's Dictionary, composed by Sir Henry Manwaring, and by him presented to the Duke of Buckingham, the then Lord High Admiral. In his Preface he says, “ The use of this book is to instruct one whose quality, attendance, or the like, cannot permit him to gain the knowledge of terms, names, words, the parts, qualities, and manner of doing things with ships by long experience, without which hath not any one as yet arrived to the least judgement or knowledge of them. It being so, that very few gentlemen (though they be called seamen) do fully and wholly understand what belongs to their profession, having only some scrabbling terms and names belonging to some parts of a ship
whence it is that so many gentlemen go long voyages, and return in a manner as ignorant as when they went out.
“ To understand the art of navigation, is far easier learnt than to know the pratique of working ships; in respect there are many helps for the first, by many books; but for the other, there was not so much as a means thought of till this to inform any one in it."
I have quoted these authorities to show how difficult it was, at that time, to acquire any knowledge of seamanship. It is a curious circumstance, that Shakspeare should have been so fortunate in his instructor, and so correct in the application of his know: ledge.
The succession of events is strictly observed in the natural progress of the distress described ; the expedients adopted are the most proper that could have been devised for a chance of safety : and it is neither to the want of skill of the seaman or the bad qualities of the ship, but solely to the power of Prospero, that the shipwreck is to be attributed.
The words of command are not only strictly proper, but are only such as point the object to be attained, and no superfluous ones of detail. Shakspeare's ship was too well manned to make it necessary to tell the seamen how they were to do it, as well as what they were to do.
He has shown a knowledge of the new improvements, as well as the doubtful points of seamanship; one of the latter he has introduced, under the only circumstance in which it was indisputable.
The events certainly follow too near one another for the strict time of representation : but perhaps, if the whole length of the play was divided by the time allowed by the critics, the portion allotted to this scene might not be too little for the whole. But he has taken care to mark intervals between the different operations by exits.
1st Position. Fall to't yarely, or we run Land discovered under the ourselves aground.
lee; the wind blowing too fresh to hawl upon a wind with the topsail set. -Yare is an old sea term for briskly, in use at that time. This first command is therefore a notice to be ready to
execute any orders quickly. 2d Position.
2d Position. Yare yare, take in the top- The topsail is taken in. sail, blow till thou burst thy “ Blow till thou hurst thy wind, wind, if room enough.
if room enough.” The danger in a good sea boat is only from being too near the land : this is introduced here to account for
the next order. 3d Position.
3d Position. Down with the top mast *.- The gale encreasing, the topYare, lower, lower, bring her to mast is struck, to take the weight try with the main course. from aloft, make the ship drive
less to leeward, and bear the mainsail under which the ship
is laid to. 4th Position,
4th Position. Lay her a hold, a hold : set The ship, having driven near her two courses, off to sea again, the shore, the mainsail is hawled lay her off.
up; the ship wore, and the two courses set on the other tack, to endeavour to clear the land that
way. 5th Position.
5th Position. We split, we split.
The ship not able to weather
a point, is driven on shore. * The striking the top masts was a new invention in Shakspeare's time, which he here very properly introduces. Sir Henry Manwaring says, “ It is not yet agreed amongst all seamen whether it is better for a ship to hull with her topmast up or down." In the Postscript to the Dictionary, he afterwards gives his own opinion : If
have sea room it is never good to strike the topmast.”. Shakspeare has placed his ship in the situation in which it was indisputably right to strike the topmast, when he had not sea room."