Lapas attēli
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors][merged small]

1

BONDUCA.

There are no circumstances which can warrant us in deciding whether this tragedy, which first appeared in the folio of 1647, was produced by our two poets conjointly, or whether it was written after the death of Beaumont. As it appears that Burbage acted one of the characters, (probably Caratach,) it must have been produced before March 1618-19, when that distinguished performer died. The play is not mentioned in the commendatory verses of Fletcher's panegyrists, Gardiner and Hill, which would lead us to suppose that Beaumont had a share in its composition. There is one peculiarity remarkable in this play, which is, that the introduction of rhymes at the conclusion of speeches and scenes, is far more frequent than in most of those printed in these volumes, particularly in those written by Fletcher after the death of his friend and original associate. As the fashion alluded to was certainly on the decline in the period during which Fletcher wrote solely, or in conjunction with Massinger and Shirley, there seems to be some reason to believe that the tragedy of Bonduca was older than most of those collected in 1647, and that Beaumont participated with Fletcher in its composition.

In 1696, George Powell, the player, received a copy of the play, with alterations, (particularly in the two first acts,) from a friend, which he informs us was revised and studied in one fortnight. It was acted at the theatre royal, and printed in quarto in the same year. After this time, Bonduca seems to have slumbered on the shelf till 1778, when the late George Colman (an ardent admirer of our poets, and chief editor of the last edition) made considerable alterations (consisting, however, mostly of omissions) in the tragedy. In this state it was acted at the little theatre in the Haymarket, and printed in the same year. Mr Reed, in bis edition of the Biographia Dramatica, judiciously observes :" We must do Mr Colman the justice to suppose that he would have res

con

tained more of his authors, but that he was constrained to cut them down to the ability of his performers."

The historical subject of this tragedy is well calculated for the stage, and has been accordingly employed by several other poets. And first in a tragedy in rhyme, entitled Boadicea, Queen of Britain, by Charles Hopkins, which appeared in 1697, the year after the alteration of Bonduca was brought forward by George Powell. Hopkins's play was well received, and was printed in the same year, with a dedication to Congreve. In 1753, Glover's tragedy, with the same title, appeared, though it had been written many years before. The poetical beauties of the language and of the descriptions are such as might be expected from the author of Leonidas; but they are almost thrown away upon a plot which is frigid and uninteresting, formed far too strictly on the models of antiquity, and with their characteristic poverty of plot and want of character. Mason's Caractacus, which appeared in 1759, · was professedly written for the closet, and not for the stage ; and its beauties, as a poem, are too well known to require any encomium in this place.

Allowing all the applause to these several pieces which can be claimed for them by their most ardent admirers, it may

with fidence be asserted, that Bonduca, as a play, is superior to them all; and that, considered in a poetical light, the diction and the images, though of a very different description, and not so uniformly excellent, need not fear a comparison even with those of Mason's drama. The want of due connection in some parts of the plot may be objected to, the introduction of some farcical low scenes may be reprobated and deplored; but, in point of character, of beautiful, picturesque, and frequently sublime diction, there are few plays deserve more praise. The characters of the different Roman captains are admirably distinguished, and yet every one of them is a true Roman. In opposition to Suetonius, Penius, and Petillius, appear the hardy and honest Caratach, and the savage, yet majestic queen of the Britons. The characters of her two daughters, though perhaps faithful portraits of the savage barbarity of the ancient Britons, are, however, repulsive to our ideas of the female mind. We can endure the unpolished heroism of the old queen; but the cool treachery of the daughters neither gains them our respect, nor interests us in their fate. The superiority of Hengo, over all characters that have ever been drawn of a similar description, can hardly be disputed. Arthur, in King John, is an exquisite portrait'; but, in this one instance, the superiority of Fletcher

may with confidence be asserted. No scenes can more strongly lay hold on the feelings than those between Caratach and Hengo in the last act. The tender solicitude of the former, and the affectionate manner in which the latter vainly struggles to dis

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »