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For all the wealth of Europe. She stirs ! here's life :
Bos. Yes, (madam,) he is living;
The preceding passage needs no commentary to point out its fearful and terrible effect. It is one of the most laboured scenes which Webster has written, and in which he has shown the most consummate art. The measure is heaped up to the brim without being over full. The concluding dialogue between Ferdinand and Bosola, is an instance of that peculiar excellence of Webster which we have before mentioned. Nothing can be
VOL. VII. PART I.
more beautifully natural than the first dawn of good feeling in Ferdinand,
“Cover her face: mine eyes dazzle: she died young;"
nor the intense anxiety of Bosola, when the Dutchess for a moment opens her eyes before she expires :
“her eye opes,
The whole of this part of the scene is most strikingly dramatic.
The ensuing dialogue between Antonio and Echo, which is introduced by some fine lines, is of a very singular kind, and is as skilfully managed, as it is singular in conception. The anxious and uncertain state of Antonio, as to the fate of the Dutchess, and the strange and awful responses of this airy nothing, notwithstanding the artificial nature of the dialogue, produce sensations thrilling and startling.
Antonio, Delio, Echo. .
Ant. I do love these ancient ruins;
Ec. Like death that we have.
Ant. It groan'd (methought), and gave
Ec. Deadly accent.
Del. I told you 'twas a pretty one: you may make it
Ec. A thing of sorrow.
Ec. Ay, wife's voice.
Ec. Do not.
Del. Wisdom doth not more moderate wasting sorrow
Ec. Be mindful of thy safety.
Ant. Necessity compels me;
Ec. O flie your fate. .
Del. Hark: the dead stones seem to have pity on you,
Ant. Echo, I will not talk with thee; ;
Ec. Thou art a dead thing.
Ant. My dutchess is asleep now,
Ec. Never see her more.
Ant. I mark'd not one repetition of the Echo
Del. Your fancy merely.
Ant. Come; I'll be out of this ague ;
Antonio is afterwards unintentionally slain by Bosola. Ferdinand becomes mad, and gives mortal wounds to both the Cardinal and Bosola, with which internecion the play concludes.
It is out of the question to talk of the unities, with reference to our English dramatists, but we cannot help remarking, in perusing this play, the rapidity with which the author makes Time ply his wings. We learn, almost in the same breath, of the marriage of the Dutchess, and the birth of three children.* This play was successful.
The last play which Webster wrote was Appius and Virginia, whose history has been so frequently the subject of dramatic composition. It is, as a whole, the most finished and regular of all his plays; and although it does not contain scenes equal to those we have already extracted, it is full of dramatic interest-rife in striking action. There is a studious care in the management of the plot, and the most accurate judgement as to effect in the introduction and developement of the incidents, Our readers are aware of the main action—the nefarious attempt of Appius, one of the Decemvirs, to obtain possession of the person of Virginia, for whom he had a dishonest passion, by means of one of his servants claiming her as his bondwoman; and the death of the noble Roman lady by the hands of her own father, to save her from disgrace. The scene in which Icilius, to whom Virginia had been betrothed, discloses to Appius his knowledge of his base attempts, is very spirited and effective; and the one in which Virginius explains to the Roman soldiers the reasons which induced him to perpetrate the fatal act, is one of subduing pathos. It is remarkably superior to that of the trial and death of Virginia, which, indeed, is comparatively powerless, with the exception of the last beautiful speech of Virginius to his daughter. We shall present to our readers the scene at the camp.
“ Virginius enters, holding the fatal knife in his hand: he advances
into the midst of the Soldiers, and then stops and addresses them.
“ Virg. Have I in all this populous assembly
* Mr. Campbell, in his Specimens of British Poets, erroneously states the preface to The White Devil to be prefixed to the Dutchess of Malfy, and thence infers, that the latter play was unsuccessful. He also affirms, that Dekker and Marston assisted Webster and Rowley in The Thracian Wonder and A Cure for a Cuckold, in which we cannot discover that they had any concern.
Can this great multitude then yield an enemy
Min. What means Virginius?
Virg. Or if the general's heart be so obdure
I Sold. Alas! good captain.
Min. Virginius, you have no command at all :
Virg. General, thanks :
Min. Besides, I charge you
Virg. I have play'd the parricide :
Min. Virginia ?
Virg. Yes, even she. ..
Min. Kill'd her willingly?
Virg. Willingly, with advice, premeditation,
Min. Most wretched villain!'
Virg. But how? I lov'd her life. Lend me amongst you One speaking organ to discourse her death, It is too harsh an imposition To lay upon a father. Oh, my Virginia!