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Solimano, and we wish we could have excepted the Torrismondo of Tasso. The early interest in this play arises from the infidelity of Torrismondo to his friend, in whose behalf he had promised to win the fair Alvida, by the beauty of whom he is inveigled into wedding her himself; and this alone would have been quite sufficient to carry the reader through the drama. It is nevertheless perplexed and overlaid by a second and more revolting source of terror. We must add to this that Tasso followed his. predecessors in the interminable length of his speeches, and in the general heaviness with which bis plot is framed. The Acripanda of Decio della Horte, the friend of Tasso, is however by far the most striking of these tragedies, with higher poetical beauties, but at the same time with greater extravagance, than any other. The play is opened by the Ghost of Orsilia, the murdered wife of Ussimano, King of Egypt. She appears invoking and prophesying vengeance against her murderer and all his house, in language of considerable power. In the second scene Ussimano determines, notwithstanding the remonstrances of his Counsellor, to go out to battle against the King of Arabia, who is come up to besiege him in Memphis. The third scene introduces us to Acripanda, the second wife of Ussimano, who enters with her faithful nurse, an indispensable personage and the constant confidante in these plays. Acripanda is in such an agony of terror as not to know bow she came without the palace. Pressed to relate the cause of her fears, she describes with great prolixity a dream from which she has just awakened, and in which she had seen a wolf preying on two beautiful lambs, and an eagle pursuing the young of a nightingale. But the more fearful part of the vision followed.
Anon I heard, while yet I lay confounded
Pursuing her discourse, she said—“Oh, once
We meet again; there who I am thou'lt know.” After the rest of the scene, which is very heavy, the queen departs to implore the protection of Heaven upon her husband and her children; the nurse remains to soliloquize upon the crimes of Ussimano, and upon the miseries impending over her beloved child, on whose character she dwells with excessive and not unpleasing fondness. Acripanda appears again in the second act; her sacrifice had been interrupted by dreadful prodigies; the victim had disappeared; wild noises had been heard; the image of Jove had averted its face, and tears and gore had stood on that of Isis, while the very ghost which she had seen in her vision burst from a sepulchre and followed her, crying 'blood! blood!' A messenger then enters, who gives a long and partly lyrical account of the battle and the defeat of Ussimano; Acripanda's lamentations have considerable beauty, but there is a most chilling transition to Ussimano's moralizing counsellor, who occupies two pages with ancient and modern examples of the crimes and fall of kings; and even when Ussimano enters, the inexorable counsellor plies him with Hannibal, Pompey and Darius. The third act opens
with a scene in which the nurse takes the opportunity of the dreadful danger and distress to give Acripanda a long and indecent account of what she knew tolerably well before, but which, as Mr. Puff says, the audience could not be expected to knowthe beginning of Ussimano's attachment to her. She proceeds, finding the occasion favourable, and Acripanda (we answer not for the reader) unwearied, to detail what the unhappy queen did not know, the murder of his former wife, Orsilia, by Ussimano; she enters into the minutest circumstances, some of which might be affecting if not so egregiously misplaced. We also have the dying words of Orsilia, which are very long, and the account of one of the children having been exposed on the banks of the Nile, like • Cyrus and Moses and Romulus and Remus,' as Acripanda subjoins. This child is the very King of Arabia (and we are informed at length how he became so) who is besieging Memphis, and has already defeated Ussimano—thus justifying Acripanda’s exclamation on the whole story— Istoria in vero degna di tragico .coturno! Acripanda then beseeches the offended spirit of Orsilia, whom she now recognizes to be that by whose presence she has so long been haunted, to spare at least her children. A messenger arrives from the King of Arabia to demand a conference with Ussimano; terms of peace are agreed on, and the children of Acripanda sent as hostages. Her forebodings were too true, and the fourth act opens with one of the most extraordinary and striking scenes we are acquainted with, between the mother and the spirits of her murdered children. We can conceive, with beautiful music and splendid acting, a great effect produced by it
on the stage.
Spirits. Mother, oh beloved mother,
Acripanda. I know not if I hear or seem to hear
Chorus. We did hear it.
Acripanda. Still, oh still, I gaze around,
Spirits. Turn thee, mother, turn and see !
Acripanda. Alas ! I know you now I see-
Yet not rightly can I deem-
cloud-what do there?
Spirits. Vainly to kiss thy infants' cheek,
Acripanda. And are ye then departed ?
Oh, gentle mother,
this ball of earth.
Acripanda. Alas! and whither do ye fly,
Spirits. We go your heavenly mansion to prepare.
Chorus. Behold! behold! how rapidly,
I see them open now, and now they close ! A chamberlain now enters, and describes with great pathos the fate of the children. The King of Arabia had sacrificed them, and made a libation of their blood, to the spirit of his murdered mother, Orsilia. The description begins well, and is continued admirably for some time; but as the poet advances, he falls into such horrible details, that the reader closes the book in disgust-happy indeed if he do not proceed to the most dreadful violation of all common feeling of which we know an example in tragedy. The remains of the children are introduced, and the mother deliberately apostrophizes the various limbs, and concludes by endeavouring to put them together again. After this, Titus Andronicus is a jest. * In the fifth act Ussimano is dragged from the dead body of Acripanda to the sepulchre of Orsilia, and there apparently left to the punishment of his own feelings. The King of Arabia also has some thoughts of slaying himself over the body of his mother, but the Chorus remonstrates with great naîveté.
Se tancidi, ove il sepolcro avrai?
U nuovo morto sepellir si possa.' Our reader will by this time be satisfied that tragedies, of which the one now analyzed is perhaps the best specimen, have not been unfairly condemned. The beauties which they possess of an occasional scene strongly conceived, fine descriptive passages, and here and there an irresistible appeal to the feelings, are fully counterbalanced by their general defects : by plots ill contrived and awkwardly unfolded ; situations of interest impeded by pages of heavy declamation; supernatural appearances which excite little solemnity or awe; trite morality pompously and sententiously enforced, and finally, a chorus which we perpetually feel to be intrusive and out of place.
The Merope of Maffei closed, and at the same time excelled, the elder school of Italian tragedy. The traditionary celebrity of the story, the praise of Voltaire, the character of the writer, and the freedom of the drama itself from the glaring faults of its
VOL. XXIV. NO. XLVII.