- Hazlitt, William. Characters of Shakespear's Plays.
- London: C. H. Reynell, 1817
Visited: 26 July 2002
Thesis: Hazlitt doesn't analyze or criticize; he appreciates. And he does so with eloquence. Here are some samples:
- "Romeo and Juliet are in love, but they are not love-sick. Every thing speaks the very soul of pleasure, the high and healthy pulse of the passions . . . ."
- "He [Shakespeare] has sounded the passion of the two lovers not on the pleasures they had experienced, but on all the pleasures they had not experienced. All that was to come of life was theirs. At that untried source of promised happiness they slaked their thirst, and the first eager draught made them drunk with love and joy."
- "This play presents a beautiful coup-d'oeil of the progress of human life. In thought it occupies years, and embraces the circle of the affections from childhood to old age. Juliet has become a great girl, a young woman since we first remember her a little thing in the idle, prattle of the nurse, Lady Capulet was about her age when she became a mother . . . ."
- "The tragic part of [Juliet's] character is of a piece with the rest. It is the heroic founded on tenderness and delicacy. Of this kind are her resolution to follow the Friar's advice, and the conflict in her bosom between apprehension and love when she comes to take the sleeping poison."
Hazlitt's remarks are both insightful and inspiring, but his allusiveness may cause some difficulty. For instance, Hazlitt's remarks on young love are easier to follow if you are familiar with Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood."
A Note on Hazlitt: William Hazlitt (1778-1830) was a passionate supporter of the ideals of the French Revolution, an admirer of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and an influence on Keats. He made his own literary reputation as an essayist and was admired for his vivid prose style.
Bottom Line: Reminds you that reading Shakespeare is a pleasure.