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construction is much more classical than the preceding, and the unities of time and action are tolerably well preserved. There is no intricacy, and but little interest, in the plot. Tragedy, seated" in rich cothurnal pomp," sways the sceptre and the sword with a too despotic hand, and her attendants are too uniformly clad in her crimson livery. She exhibits a picture, which one who had "supped full of horrors" might imagine. A tragedy, says the author,
Ought to be grave, graves this shall beautify.
It is indeed a common sepulchre for all the actors, into which tragedy, like the plague, casts its victims to fester and pulverize by the score. Strange, but not pitiful; tragical, but most painful. Most of the scenes tend rather to ossify, than to soften the heart, yet are there one or two of redeeming tenderness, which shed a gentle and placid lustre upon their sterner brethren, like the moon tinging and softening with her beams, the dark edges of a thick forest.
The play represents the progress of Eleazar, a captive Moorish prince, through a series of crimes, to the throne of Spain.
Distinguished as a warrior in the service of Spain, revenge for the loss of crown and country was stimulated by contempt and contumely. 'Tis true, he was a villain, and he thanks nature for having stamped him one, but still with reference to the truth of character; this furnishes a motive for actions, in which revenge and ambition guide his steps to that bad eminence which he achieved whereas, in the mighty Tamburlaine, we look in vain for the motives of most of his cruelties.
When the infatuated Queen, enamoured of the Moor,
Of the proud complexion of his cheeks
calls out to the musicians,
"Chime out your softest strains of harmony,
And, on delicious music's silken wing,
That he may be enamour'd of your tunes;"
he replies with bitter scorn to all her caresses.-Aware of his power and her weakness, his natural fierceness breaks out into taunts and mockery, which, on her threats of discovery, are converted into instant placability and amorous dalliance.
This ferocious compound of every villainy under heaven, can seem gentle and humble, can fawn and flatter; but it is a distressing constraint for one, whose blood shoots through his veins
like lightning along a metallic conductor. He is, as the author of The Revenge says, one of those
"Souls made of fire, and children of the sun,
With whom revenge is virtue."
In this passion he is steeped to the lips.-There is but one faint, a very faint, glimmering of feeling through the clouds which darken his heart, when he speaks of his Maria-his wife, -a beautiful and innocent flower blossoming on corruption. She seems so sweet, so gentle a being, that Satan himself could hardly find it in his heart to hate or harm her. She looks like "the moon upon a midnight murder." It is, however, but a passing gleam. The queen, in murdering her, that she might have no let to her intercourse with the Moor, only anticipated what her fell husband would have made no scruple to do himself to forward his scheme of sovereignty and revenge. There is also something generous in his disdain to fight with Philip of Spain, unless on equal terms. The poet has invested him too with a quickness and depth of intellect, a commanding superiority of talent, which mitigates the horror we should otherwise feel at his crimes, and prevents us from being entirely disgusted. Alvero has some character, and Hortenso and Isabella are a fair couple. Upon the whole, this is not a bad play; it is at an immeasurable height above Tamburlaine, and vastly superior to the Jew of Malta. In general interest, it surpasses Doctor Faustus, though inferior in terrible effect. It is also distinguished by a greater chasteness and propriety of imagery, and a more exquisite melody in the versification than any of his other productions.
The following soliloquy of Eleazar is written with considerable force of expression.
"Now, purple villany,
Sit like a robe imperial on my back,
My vengeance; foul deeds hid, do sweetly thrive.
Mischief, erect thy throne and sit in state,
Here, here upon this head; let fools fear fate,
And waste these balls of sight, by tossing them
Sweet opportunity! I'll bind myself
To cut down all that stand within my wrongs
The best scene is between the King Fernando and Maria, which is both beautiful and pathetic.
The King sends the Moor in pursuit of Prince Philip and Mendoza, to favor his designs upon his wife, who, to prevent them, administers a narcotic potion to him.
"Maria. Oh! kill me ere you stain my chastity.
King. My hand holds death, but love sits in mine eye.
Maria. Why from my bed have you thus frighted me?
Rather than be an emperor's concubine.
King. By my high birth, I swear thou shalt be none;
A king shall act it, and a king shall die,
Except sweet mercy's beam shine from thine eye.
If this affright thee, it shall sleep for ever.
If still thou hate me, thus this noble blade,
This royal purple temple shall invade.
Maria. My husband is from hence, for his sake spare me.
So is Fernando; then, for country's sake,
Let me not spare thee: on thy husband's face,
But I'll look on thee like the gilded sun,,
When to the west his fiery horses run.
Maria. True, here you look on me with sun-set eyes,
For by beholding you my glory dies..
King. Call me thy morning then, for like the morn,
In pride Maria shall through Spain be borne.
[Music plays within.
This music was prepar'd to please thine ears:
[A banquet brought in.
Lo, here's a banquet set with my own hands;
Maria. I cannot love you if you murder him.
Maria. I'll wander with him into banishment.
[Locks the doors.
Love's banquet is most sweet when 'tis least seen.
King. Were love himself in real substance here,
Oh! I grow dull, and the cold hand of sleep
Bring home my dear lord ere his king awake,
Enter the Queen, Alvero, and Roderigo.
[Offers to go.
Queen. I murder but the murd'ress of my son.
Alv. Ah, me! my child! oh! oh, cease your torturing! Maria. Heaven, ope your windows, that my spotless soul, Riding upon the wings of innocence,
May enter Paradise.
[She dies. King wakes. King. Who calls Fernando? Love, Maria, speak; Oh! whither art thou fled? Whence flow these waters, That fall like winter storms from the drown'd eyes? Alv. From my Maria's death.
King. My Maria dead!
Damn'd be the soul to hell that stopp'd her breath.
Maria! oh, me! who durst murder her?
Qu. Mo. I thought my dear Fernando had been dead, And in my indignation murder'd her.
King. I was not dead until you murder'd me,
By killing fair Maria.
Qu. Mo. Gentle son—
King. Ungentle mother, you a deed have done
Of so much ruth, that no succeeding age
Can ever clear you off. Oh! my dear love!
Yet heavens can witness thou wert never mine.
Spain's wonder was Maria.
Qu. Mo. Sweet, have done.
King. Have done! for what? For shedding zealous tears
Over the tomb of virtuous chastity?
You cry, have done, now I am doing good;
But cry'd, do on, when you were shedding blood.
Rod. These words become you not, my gracious lord.