2017年4月10日 星期一

William Hazlitt (1778 - 1830) "莎士比亚戏剧中的人物" (Characters of Shakespear's plays)

An excerpt from William Hazlitt’s 1823 essay “My First Acquaintance,” about his first encounter with the poet, who would become a kind of distant mentor.

Prosperity is a great teacher; adversity is a greater. Possession pampers the mind; privation trains and strengthens it.
William Hazlitt (1778 - 1830)

William Hazlitt—born on April 10th 1778—was a man of prolific mental power. Over-intellectual modern-day critics should take a lesson from his capacity to write intelligently about emotion

Essayist William Hazlitt was born on this day in 1778

威廉·哈兹里特 "莎士比亚戏剧中的人物"


Characters of Shakespear's plays - Google 圖書結果

William Hazlitt - 1817 - 352 頁

Hazlitt, William, 1778-1830


This is justly considered as one of the most delightful of
Shakespeare's comedies. It is full of sweetness and pleasantry. It
is perhaps too good-natured for comedy. It has little satire, and no
spleen. It aims at the ludicrous rather than the ridiculous. It
makes us laugh at the follies of mankind, not despise them, and
still less bear any ill-will towards them. Shakespeare's comic
genius resembles the bee rather in its power of extracting sweets
from weeds or poisons, than in leaving a sting behind it. He gives
die most amusing exaggeration of the prevailing foibles of his
characters, but in a way that they themselves, instead of being
offended at, would almost join in to humour; he rather contrives
opportunities for them to show themselves off in the happiest
lights, than renders them contemptible in the perverse construction
of the wit or malice of others.--There is a certain stage of society
in which people become conscious of their peculiarities and
absurdities, affect to disguise what they are, and set up
pretensions to what they are not. This gives rise to a corresponding
style of comedy, the object of which is to detect the disguises of
self-love, and to make reprisals on these preposterous assumptions
of vanity, by marking the contrast between the real and the affected
character as severely as possible, and denying to those who would
impose on us for what they are not, even the merit which they have.
This is the comedy of artificial life, of wit and satire, such as we
see it in Congreve, Wycherley, Vanbrugh, &c. To this succeeds a
state of society from which the same sort of affectation and
pretence are banished by a greater knowledge of the world or by
their successful exposure on the stage; and which by neutralizing
the materials of comic character, both natural and artificial,
leaves no comedy at all--but the sentimental. Such is our modern
comedy. There is a period in the progress of manners anterior to
both these, in which the foibles and follies of individuals are of
nature's planting, not the growth of art or study; in which they are
therefore unconscious of them themselves, or care not who knows
them, if they can but have their whim out; and in which, as there is
no attempt at imposition, the spectators rather receive pleasure
from humouring the inclinations of the persons they laugh at, than
wish to give them pain by exposing their absurdity. This may be
called the comedy of nature, and it is the comedy which we generally
find in Shakespeare.--Whether the analysis here given be just or
not, the spirit of his comedies is evidently quite distinct from
that of the authors above mentioned, as it is in its essence the
same with that of Cervantes, and also very frequently of Moliere,
though he was more systematic in his extravagance than Shakespeare.
Shakespeare's comedy is of a pastoral and poetical cast. Folly is
indigenous to the soil, and shoots out with native, happy, unchecked
luxuriance. Absurdity has every encouragement afforded it; and
nonsense has room to flourish in. Nothing is stunted by the
churlish, icy hand of indifference or severity. The poet runs riot
in a conceit, and idolizes a quibble. His whole object is to turn
the meanest or rudest objects to a pleasurable account. The relish
which he has of a pun, or of the quaint humour of a low character,
does not interfere with the delight with which he describes a
beautiful image, or the most refined love. The clown's forced jests
do not spoil the sweetness of the character of Viola; the same house
is big enough to hold Malvolio, the Countess, Maria, Sir Toby, and
Sir Andrew Aguecheek. For instance, nothing can fall much lower than
this last character in intellect or morals: yet how are his
weaknesses nursed and dandled by Sir Toby into something 'high
fantastical', when on Sir Andrew's commendation of himself for
dancing and fencing, Sir Toby answers: 'Wherefore are these things
hid? Wherefore have these gifts a curtain before them? Are they like
to take dust like Mistress Moll's picture? Why dost thou not go to
church in a galliard, and come home in a coranto? My very walk
should be a jig! I would not so much as make water but in a cinque-
pace. What dost thou mean? Is this a world to hide virtues in? I did
think by the excellent constitution of thy leg, it was framed under
the star of a galliard!'--How Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and the Clown
afterwards chirp over their cups, how they 'rouse the night-owl in a
catch, able to draw three souls out of one weaver'!--What can be
better than Sir Toby's unanswerable answer to Malvolio, 'Dost thou
think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and
ale?' In a word, the best turn is given to everything, instead of
the worst. There is a constant infusion of the romantic and
enthusiastic, in proportion as the characters are natural and
sincere: whereas, in the more artificial style of comedy, everything
gives way to ridicule and indifference, there being nothing left but
affectation on one side, and incredulity on the other.--Much as we
like Shakespeare's comedies, we cannot agree with Dr. Johnson that
they are better than his tragedies; nor do we like them half so
well. If his inclination to comedy sometimes led him to trifle with
the seriousness of tragedy, the poetical and impassioned passages
are the best parts of his comedies. The great and secret charm of
TWELFTH NIGHT is the character of Viola. Much as we like catches and
cakes and ale, there is something that we like better. We have a
friendship for Sir Toby; we patronize Sir Andrew; we have an
understanding with the Clown, a sneaking kindness for Maria and her
rogueries; we feel a regard for Malvolio, and sympathize with his
gravity, his smiles, his cross-garters, his yellow stockings, and
imprisonment in the stocks. But there is something that excites in
us a stronger feeling than all this--it is Viola's confession of her

 Duke. What's her history?

 Viola. A blank, my lord, she never told her love:
   She let concealment, like a worm i' th' bud,
   Feed on her damask cheek, she pin'd in thought,
   And with a green and yellow melancholy,
   She sat like Patience on a monument,
   Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?
   We men may say more, swear more, but indeed,
   Our shows are more than will; for still we prove
   Much in our vows, but little in our love.

 Duke. But died thy sister of her love, my boy?

 Viola. I am all the daughters of my father's house,
   And all the brothers too; and yet I know not.

Shakespeare alone could describe the effect of his own poetry.

   Oh, it came o'er the ear like the sweet south
   That breathes upon a bank of violets,
   Stealing and giving odour.

What we so much admire here is not the image of Patience on a
monument, which has been generally quoted, but the lines before and
after it. 'They give a very echo to the seat where love is throned.'
How long ago it is since we first learnt to repeat them; and still,
still they vibrate on the heart, like the sounds which the passing
wind draws from the trembling strings of a harp left on some desert
shore! There are other passages of not less impassioned sweetness.
Such is Olivia's address to Sebastian whom she supposes to have
already deceived her in a promise of marriage.

   Blame not this haste of mine: if you mean well,
   Now go with me and with this holy man
   Into the chantry by: there before him,
   And underneath that consecrated roof,
   Plight me the full assurance of your faith,

We have already said something of Shakespeare's songs. One of the
most beautiful of them occurs in this play, with a preface of his
own to it.

 Duke. O fellow, come, the song we had last night.
   Mark it, Cesario, it is old and plain;
   The spinsters and the knitters in the sun,
   And the free maids that weave their thread with bones,
   Do use to chaunt it; it is silly sooth,
   And dallies with the innocence of love,
   Like the old age.


Come away, come away, death,
  And in sad cypress let me be laid;
Fly away, fly away, breath;
  I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
  O prepare it;
My part of death no one so true
  Did share it.

Not a flower, not a flower sweet,
  On my black coffin let there be strown;
Not a friend, not a friend greet
  My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown;
A thousand thousand sighs to save,
  Lay me, O! where
Sad true-love never find my grave,
  To weep there.

Who after this will say that Shakespeare's genius was only fitted
for comedy? Yet after reading other parts of this play, and
particularly the garden-scene where Malvolio picks up the letter, if
we were to say that his genius for comedy was less than his genius
for tragedy, it would perhaps only prove that our own taste in such
matters is more saturnine than mercurial.

 Enter Maria

 Sir Toby. Here comes the little villain:--How now, my
   Nettle of India?

 Maria. Get ye all three into the box-tree: Malvolio's
   coming down this walk: he has been yonder i' the sun,
   practising behaviour to his own shadow this half hour;
   observe him, for the love of mockery; for I know this letter
   will make a contemplative idiot of him. Close, in the name
   of jesting! Lie thou there; for here comes the trout that
   must be caught with tickling.

 [They hide themselves. Maria throws down a letter, and exit.]

 Enter Malvolio

 Malvolio. 'Tis but fortune; all is fortune. Maria once told
   me, she did affect me; and I have heard herself come thus
   near, that, should she fancy, it should be one of my complexion.
   Besides, she uses me with a more exalted respect
   than any one else that follows her. What should I think on't?

 Sir Toby. Here's an over-weening rogue!

 Fabian. O, peace! Contemplation makes a rare turkey-
   cock of him; how he jets under his advanced plumes!

 Sir Andrew. 'Slight, I could so beat the rogue:--

 Sir Toby. Peace, I say.

 Malvolio. To be Count Malvolio;--

 Sir Toby. Ah, rogue!

 Sir Andrew. Pistol him, pistol him.

 Sir Toby. Peace, peace!

 Malvolio. There is example for't; the lady of the Strachy
   married the yeoman of the wardrobe.

 Sir Andrew. Fire on him, Jezebel!

 Fabian. O, peace! now he's deeply in; look, how
   imagination blows him.

 Malvolio. Having been three months married to her,
   sitting in my chair of state,--

 Sir Toby. O for a stone bow, to hit him in the eye!

 Malvolio. Calling my officers about me, in my branch'd
   velvet gown; having come from a day-bed, where I have
   left Olivia sleeping.

 Sir Toby. Fire and brimstone!

 Fabian. O peace, peace!

 Malvolio. And then to have the humour of state: and
   after a demure travel of regard,--telling them, I know my
   place, as I would they should do theirs,--to ask for my
   kinsman Toby.--

 Sir Toby. Bolts and shackles!

 Fabian. O, peace, peace, peace! now, now.

 Malvolio. Seven of my people, with an obedient start,
   make out for him; I frown the while; and, perchance, wind
   up my watch, or play with some rich jewel. Toby approaches;
   curtsies there to me.

 Sir Toby. Shall this fellow live?

 Fabian. Though our silence be drawn from us with
   cares, yet peace.

 Malvolio. I extend my hand to him thus, quenching my
   familiar smile with an austere regard to control.

 Sir Toby. And does not Toby take you a blow o' the lips

 Malvolio. Saying--Cousin Toby, my fortunes having
   cast me on your niece, give me this prerogative of speech;--

 Sir Toby. What, what?

 Malvolio. You must amend your drunkenness.

 Fabian. Nay, patience, or we break the sinews of our

 Malvolio. Besides, you waste the treasure of your time
   with a foolish knight--

 Sir Andrew. That's me, I warrant you.

 Malvolio. One Sir Andrew--

 Sir Andrew. I knew,'twas I; for many do call me fool.

 Malvolio. What employment have we here?     [Taking up the letter.]

The letter and his comments on it are equally good. If poor
Malvolio's treatment afterwards is a little hard, poetical justice
is done in the uneasiness which Olivia suffers on account of her
mistaken attachment to Cesario, as her insensibility to the violence
of the Duke's passion is atoned for by the discovery of Viola's
concealed love of him.