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prepared a sleeping potion, whose effects resemble
those of death (Romeo and Juliet). She swallows it,
knowing that her supposed corpse would lie at night,
pursuant to an old custom, in the sanctuary of the
cathedral; and believing that Angelo, whose love for


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

herself she had elicited, by a stratagem, from his own
lips, will watch by the body, in the strength of his devo
tion. Her ultimate design (we may suppose, for it is
not told) is to confess all to her lover, on her revival,
and throw herself upon his protection, their marriage
being concealed, and herself regarded as dead by the
world. Zippa, who really loves Angelo (her love for
Tortesa, it must be understood, is a very equivocal
feeling, for the fact cannot be denied that Mr. Willis
makes her love both at the same time) Zippa, who
really loves Angelo, who has discovered his passion
for Isabella, and who, as well as that lady, believes
that the painter will watch the corpse in the cathedral,
determines, through jealousy, to prevent his so doing,
and with this view informs Tortesa that she has learned
it to be Angelo's design to steal the body for artistical
purposes, in short, as a model to be used in his studio.
The usurer, in consequence, sets a guard at the doors
of the cathedral. This guard does, in fact, prevent
the lover from watching the corpse, but, it appears,
does not prevent the lady, on her revival and disap
pointment in not seeing the one she sought, from
passing unperceived from the church. Weakened by
her long sleep, she wanders aimlessly through the
streets, and at length finds herself, when just sinking
with exhaustion, at the door of her father. She has
no recourse but to knock. The Count, who here, we
must say, acts very much as Thimble of old, the


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

knight, we mean, of the " scolding wife," maintains
that she is dead, and shuts the door in her face. In
other words, he supposes it to be the ghost of his
daughter who speaks ; and so the lady is left to perish
on the steps. Meantime Angelo is absent from home,
attempting to get access to the cathedral; and his
servant Tomaso takes the opportunity of absenting
himself also, and of indulging his bibulous propen
sities while perambulating the town. He finds Isabella
as we left her; and through motives which we will
leave Mr. Willis to explain, conducts her unresistingly
to Angelo's residence, and deposits her in Angelo's
bed. The artist now returns, Tomaso is kicked out
of doors, and we are not told, but left to presume,
that a full explanation and perfect understanding are
brought about between the lady and her lover.

We find them, next morning, in the studio, where
stands, leaning against an easel, the portrait (a full
length) of Isabella, with curtains adjusted before it.
The stage-directions, moreover, inform us that " the
back wall of the room is such as to form a natural
ground for the picture." While Angelo is occupied in
retouching it, he is interrupted by the arrival of Tor-
tesa with a guard, and is accused of having stolen the
corpse from the sanctuary, the lady, meanwhile, hav
ing stepped behind the curtain. The usurer insists
upon seeing the painting, with a view of ascertaining
whether any new touches had been put upon it, which


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

would argue an examination, post mortem, of those
charms of neck and bosom which the living Isabella
would not have unveiled. Resistance is vain, the cur
tain is torn down; but to the surprise of Angelo, the
lady herself is discovered, " with her hands crossed
on her breast, and her eyes fixed on the ground, stand
ing motionless in the frame which had contained the
picture." The tableau, we are to believe, deceives
Tortesa, who steps back to contemplate what he sup
poses to be the portrait of his betrothed. In the mean
time the guards, having searched the house, find the
veil which had been thrown over the imagined corpse
in the sanctuary; and, upon this evidence, the artist
is carried before the Duke. Here he is accused, not
only of sacrilege, but of the murder of Isabella, and is
about to be condemned to death, when his mistress
comes forward in person, thus resigning herself to
the usurer to save the life of her lover. But the
nobler nature of Tortesa now breaks forth; and,
smitten with admiration of the lady's conduct, as well
as convinced that her love for himself was feigned,
he resigns her to Angelo, although now feeling and
acknowledging for the first time that a fervent love
has, in his own bosom, assumed the place of this
misanthropic ambition which, hitherto, had alone
actuated him in seeking her hand. Moreover, he
endows Isabella with the lands of her father, Falcone.
The lovers are thus made happy. The usurer weds


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

Zippa ; and the curtain drops upon the promise of the
Duke to honor the double nuptials with his presence.

This story, as we have given it, hangs better to
gether (Mr. Willis will pardon our modesty) and is
altogether more easily comprehended than in the
words of the play itself. We have really put the
best face on the matter, and presented the whole in
the simplest and clearest light in our power. We
mean to say that Tortesa (partaking largely, in
this respect, of the drama of Cervantes and Calderon)
is over-clouded, rendered misty, by a world of un
necessary and impertinent intrigue. This folly was
adopted by the Spanish comedy, and is imitated by
us with the idea of imparting " action," " business,"
" vivacity." But vivacity, however desirable, can be
attained in many other ways, and is dearly purchased,
indeed, when the price is intelligibility.

The truth is that cant has never attained a more
owl-like dignity than in the discussion of dramatic
principle. A modern stage critic is nothing if not a
lofty contemner of all things simple and direct. He
delights in mystery, revels in mystification, has trans
cendental notions concerning P. S. and 0. P., and
talks about " stage business and stage effect " as if
he were discussing the differential calculus. For much
of all this we are indebted to the somewhat over-pro
found criticisms of Augustus William Schlegel.

But the dicta of common sense are of universal

Lrongfellow, Willis, and the Drama

application, and, touching this matter of intrigue, if,
from its superabundance, we are compelled, even in
the quiet and critical perusal of a play, to pause fre
quently and reflect long, to re-read passages over and
over again, for the purpose of gathering their bearing
upon the whole, of maintaining in our mind a general
connection, what but fatigue can result from the ex
ertion ? How then when we come to the represen
tation ? when these passages, trifling, perhaps, in
themselves, but important when considered in rela
tion to the plot, are hurried and blurred over in the
stuttering enunciation of some miserable rantipole, or
omitted altogether through the constitutional loss of
memory so peculiar to those lights of the age and
stage, bedight (from being of no conceivable use)
supernumeraries ? For it must be borne in mind
that these bits of intrigue (we use the term in the
sense of the German critics) appertain generally, in
deed altogether, to the afterthoughts of the drama,
to the underplots ; are met with, consequently, in the
mouth of the lackeys and chamber-maids; and are
thus consigned to the tender mercies of the stellx
minores, Of course we get but an imperfect idea of
what is going on before our eyes. Action after action
ensues whose mystery we cannot unlock without the
little key which these barbarians have thrown away
and lost. Our weariness increases in proportion to
the number of these embarrassments, and if the play


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

escape damnation at all, it escapes in spite of that
intrigue to which, in nine cases out of ten, the author
attributes his success, and which he will persist in
valuing exactly in proportion to the misapplied labor
it has cost him.

But dramas of this kind are said, in our customary
parlance, to " abound in plot." We have never yet
met any one, however, who could tell us what precise
ideas he connected with the phrase. A mere suc
cession of incidents, even the most spirited, will no
more constitute a plot than a multiplication of zeros,
even the most infinite, will result in the production of
a unit. This all will admit ; but few trouble themselves
to think further. The common notion seems to be
in favor of mere complexity; but a plot, properly un
derstood, is perfect only inasmuch as we shall find
ourselves unable to detach from it or disarrange any
single incident involved, without destruction to the
mass. This we say is the point of perfection, a point
never yet attained, but not on that account unattain
able. Practically, we may consider a plot as of high
excellence when no one of its component parts shall
be susceptible of removal without detriment to the
whole. Here, indeed, is a vast lowering of the de
mand, and with less than this no writer of refined
taste should content himself.

As this subject is not only in itself of great impor
tance, but will have at all points a bearing upon


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

what we shall say hereafter, in the examination of
various plays, we shall be pardoned for quoting from
the Democratic Review some passages (of our own)
which enter more particularly into the rationale of
the subject:

" All the Bridgewater treatises have failed in notic
ing the great idiosyncrasy in the Divine system of
adaptation, that idiosyncrasy which stamps the adap
tation as Divine, in distinction from that which is
the work of merely human constructiveness. I speak
of the complete mutuality of adaptation. For exam
ple: In human constructions, a particular cause has
a particular effect, a particular purpose brings about
a particular object; but we see no reciprocity. The
effect does not react upon the cause, the object does
not change relations with the purpose. In Divine con
structions, the object is either object or purpose as
we choose to regard it, while the purpose is either
purpose or object; so that we can never (abstractly,
without concretion, without reference to facts of the
moment) decide which is which.

" For secondary example : In polar climates, the
human frame, to maintain its animal heat, requires,
for combustion in the capillary system, an abundant
supply of highly azotized food, such as train-oil.
Again : In polar climates nearly the sole food afforded
man is the oil of abundant seals and whales. Now
whether is oil at hand because imperatively demanded,


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

or whether is it the only thing demanded because the
only thing to be obtained ? It is impossible to say ;
there is an absolute reciprocity of adaptation for which
we seek in vain among the works of man.

" The Bridgewater tractists may have avoided this
point, on account of its apparent tendency to over
throw the idea of cause in general, consequently of
a First Cause, of God. But it is more probable that
they have failed to perceive what no one preceding
them has, to my knowledge, perceived.

" The pleasure which we derive from any exertion
of human ingenuity is in the direct ratio of the ap
proach to this species of reciprocity between cause and
effect. In the construction of plot, for example, in
fictitious literature, we should aim at so arranging
the points, or incidents, that we cannot distinctly see,
in respect to any one of them, whether that one de
pends from any one other or upholds it. In this sense,
of course, perfection of plot is unattainable in fact;
because man is the constructor. The plots of God
are perfect. The universe is a plot of God."

The pleasure derived from the contemplation of the
unity resulting from plot is far more intense than is
ordinarily supposed, and, as in nature we meet with
no such combination of incident, appertains to a very
lofty region of the ideal. In speaking thus we have
not said that plot is more than an adjunct to the
drama, more than a perfectly distinct and separable


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

source of pleasure. It is not an essential. In its in
tense artificiality it may even be conceived injurious
in a certain degree (unless constructed with consum
mate skill) to that real life-likeness which is the soul
of the drama of character. Good dramas have been
written with very little plot ; capital dramas might be
written with none at all. Some plays of high merit,
having plot, abound in irrelevant incident, in inci
dent, we mean, which could be displaced or removed
altogether without effect upon the plot itself, and yet
are by no means objectionable as dramas; and for
this reason, that the incidents are evidently irrelevant,
obviously episodical. Of their digressive nature the
spectator is so immediately aware that he views them,
as they arise, in the simple light of interlude, and
does not fatigue his attention by attempting to estab
lish for them a connection, or more than an illustrative
connection, with the great interests of the subject.
Such are the plays of Shakespeare. But all this is
very different from that irrelevancy of intrigue which
disfigures and very usually damns the work of the
unskilful artist. With him the great error lies in in
consequence. Underplot is piled upon underplot (the
very word is a paradox), and all to no purpose, to no
end. The interposed incidents have no ultimate effect
upon the main ones. They may hang upon the mass,
they may even coalesce with it, or, as in some intricate
cases, they may be so intimately blended as to be lost


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

amid the chaos which they have been instrumental in
bringing about ; but still they have no portion in the
plot, which exists, if at all, independently of their in
fluence. Yet the attempt is made by the author to
establish and demonstrate a dependence, an identity;
and it is the obviousness of this attempt which is the
cause of weariness in the spectator, who, of course,
cannot at once see that his attention is challenged to
no purpose, that intrigues so obtrusively forced upon
it are to be found, in the end, without effect upon
the leading interests of the play.

Tortesa will afford us plentiful examples of this ir
relevancy of intrigue, of this misconception of the
nature and of the capacities of plot. We have said
that our digest of the story is more easy of compre
hension than the detail of Mr. Willis. If so, it is
because we have forborne to give such portions as
had no influence upon the whole. These served but
to embarrass the narrative and fatigue the attention.
How much was irrelevant is shown by the brevity
of the space in which we have recorded, somewhat
at length, all the influential incidents of a drama of
five acts. There is scarcely a scene in which is not
to be found the germ of an underplot, a germ, how
ever, which seldom proceeds beyond the condition of
a bud, or, if so fortunate as to swell into a flower,
arrives, in no single instance, at the dignity of fruit.
Zippa, a lady altogether without character (dramatic),


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

is the most pertinacious of all conceivable concocters
of plans never to be matured, of vast designs that
terminate in nothing, of cul'dessac machinations.
She plots in one page and counterplots in the next.
She schemes her way from P. S. to 0. P., and intrigues
perseveringly from the footlights to the slips. A very
singular instance of the inconsequence of her man-
reuvres is found toward the conclusion of the play.
The whole of the second scene (occupying five pages)
in the fifth act, is obviously introduced for the pur
pose of giving her information, through Tomaso's
means, of Angelo's arrest for the murder of Isabella.
Upon learning his danger she rushes from the stage
to be present at the trial, exclaiming that her evidence
can save his life. We, the audience, of course ap
plaud, and now look with interest to her movements
in the scene of the judgment hall. She, Zippa, we
think, is somebody after all; she will be the means
of Angelo's salvation; she will thus be the chief un-
raveller of the plot. All eyes are bent, therefore, upon
Zippa; but alas! upon the point at issue Zippa does
not so much as open her mouth. It is scarcely too
much to say that not a single action of this imperti
nent little busybody has any real influence upon the
play; yet she appears upon every occasion, appearing
only to perplex.

Similar things abound; we should not have space
even to allude to them all. The whole conclusion of


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

the play is supererogatory. The immensity of pure
fuss with which it is overloaded forces us to the re
flection that all of it might have been avoided by one
word of explanation to the Duke, an amiable man
who admires the talents of Angelo, and who, to pre
vent Isabella's marrying against her will, had pre
viously offered to free Falcone of his bonds to the
usurer. That he would free him now, and thus set
all matters straight, the spectator cannot doubt for
an instant, and he can conceive no better reason why
explanations are not made than that Mr. Willis does
not think proper they should be. In fact, the whole
drama is exceedingly ill motivirt

We have already mentioned an inadvertence, in the
fourth act, where Isabella is made to escape from the
sanctuary through the midst of guards who prevented
the ingress of Angelo. Another occurs where Fal
cone's conscience is made to reprove him, upon the
appearance of his daughter's supposed ghost, for hav
ing occasioned her death by forcing her to marry
against her will. The author had forgotten that
Falcone submitted to the wedding, after the Duke's
interposition, only upon Isabella's assurance that she
really loved the usurer. In the third scene, too, of
the first act, the imagination of the spectator is no
doubt a little taxed, when he finds Angelo, in the
first moment of his introduction to the palace of
Isabella, commencing her portrait by laying on color


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

after color, before he has made any attempt at an
outline. In the last act, moreover, Tortesa gives to
Isabella a deed

Of the Falcone palaces and lands,
And all the money forfeit by Falcone.

This is a terrible blunder, and the more important as
upon this act of the usurer depends the development of
his new-born sentiments of honor and virtue depends,
in fact, the most salient point of the play. Tortesa, we
say, gives to Isabella the lands forfeited by Falcone;
but Tortesa was surely not very generous in giving
what, clearly, was not his own to give. Falcone had
not forfeited the deed, which had been restored to
him by the usurer, and which was then in his (Fal
cone's) possession. Hear Tortesa :

He put it in the bond,
That if, by any humor of my own,
Or accident that came not from himself,
Or from his daughter's will, the match were marred,
His tenure stood intact.

Now Falcone is still resolute for the match; but
this new, generous " humor " of Tortesa induces him
(Tortesa) to decline it. Falcone's tenure is then in
tact; he retains the deed, the usurer is giving away
property not his own.

As a drama of character Tortesa is by no means
open to so many objections as when we view it in
the light of its plot ; but it is still faulty. The merits

VOL. viii. 16. 241

Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

are so exceedingly negative that it is difficult to say
anything about them. The Duke is nobody ; Falcone,
nothing; Zippa, less than nothing. Angelo may be
regarded simply as the medium through which Mr.
Willis conveys to the reader his own glowing feelings,
his own refined and delicate fancy (delicate, yet bold),
his own rich voluptuousness of sentiment, a volup
tuousness which would offend in almost any other
language than that in which it is so skilfully apparelled.
Isabella is the heroine of The Hunchback, The revo
lution in the character of Tortesa, or rather the final
triumph of his innate virtue, is a dramatic point far
older than the hills. It may be observed, too, that
although the representation of no human character
should be quarrelled with for its inconsistency, we
yet require that the inconsistencies be not absolute
antagonisms to the extent of neutralization ; they may
be permitted to be oils and waters, but they must not
be alkalies and acids. When, in the course of the
denouement, the usurer burst forth into an eloquence
virtue-inspired, we cannot sympathize very heartily in
his fine speeches, since they proceed from the mouth
of the selfsame egotist who, urged by a disgusting
vanity, uttered so many sotticisms (about his fine legs,
etc.) in the earlier passages of the play. Tomaso is,
upon the whole, the best personage. We recognize
some originality in his conception, and conception was
seldom more admirably carried out.


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

One or two observations at random. In the third
scene of the fifth act, Tomaso, the buffoon, is made
to assume paternal authority over Isabella (as usual,
without sufficient purpose) by virtue of a law which
Tortesa thus expounds :

My gracious liege, there is a law in Florence,
That if a father, for no guilt or shame,
Disown and shut his door upon his daughter,
She is the child of him who succors her,
Who by the shelter of a single night
Becomes endowed with the authority
Lost by the other.

No one, of course, can be made to believe that any
such stupid law as this ever existed either in Florence
or Timbuctoo; but, on the ground que le vrai n'est
pas toujours le vraisemblable f we say that even its
real existence would be no justification of Mr. Willis.
It has an air of the far-fetched, of the desperate,
which a fine taste will avoid as a pestilence. Very
much of the same nature is the attempt of Tortesa
to extort a second bond from Falcone. The evidence
which convicts Angelo of murder is ridiculously frail.
The idea of Isabella's assuming the place of the por
trait, and so deceiving the usurer, is not only glar
ingly improbable, but seems adopted from the Winter's
Tale, But in this latter play the deception is at least
possible, for the human figure but imitates a statue.
What, however, are we to make of Mr. W.'s stage


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

direction about the back walls being " so arranged as
to form a natural ground for the picture " ? Of
course, the very slightest movement of Tortesa (and
he makes many) would have annihilated the illusion
by disarranging the perspective; and in no manner
could this latter have been arranged at all for more
than one particular point of view; in other words,
for more than one particular person in the whole
audience. The " asides," moreover, are unjustifiably
frequent. The prevalence of this folly (of speaking
aside) detracts as much from the acting merit of our
drama generally as any other inartisticality. It
utterly destroys verisimilitude. People are not in the
habit of soliloquizing aloud at least, not to any
positive extent; and why should an author have to
be told, what the slightest reflection would teach him,
that an audience, by dint of no imagination, can or
will conceive that what is sonorous in their own ears
at the distance of fifty feet cannot be heard by an
actor at the distance of one or two ?

Having spoken thus of Tortesa in terms of nearly
unmitigated censure, our readers may be surprised to
hear us say that we think highly of the drama as a
whole, and have little hesitation in ranking it before
most of the dramas of Sheridan Knowles. Its lead
ing faults are those of the modern drama generally;
they are not peculiar to itself, while its great merits
are. If in support of our opinions we do not cite


Longfellow, Willis, and the Drama

points of commendation, it is because these form the
mass of the work. And were we to speak of fine
passages, we should speak of the entire play. Nor
by " fine passages " do we mean passages of merely
fine language, embodying fine sentiment, but such as
are replete with truthfulness, and teem with the lofti
est qualities of the dramatic art. Points, capital points
abound ; and these have far more to do with the gen
eral excellence of a play than a too speculative criti
cism has been willing to admit. Upon the whole, we
are proud of Tortesa, and here again, for the fiftieth
time at least, record our warm admiration of the

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