26 SEPTEMBER 1840, Page 11


WEVElt did drama open more promisingly, or come to a more lame and impotent couclusion, than SIllinTDAN Kxowt.Es's new tragedy, The Aide qf Messina, or, as it is called in the printed book, John VP/wit/a, which is the proper title. The first act is stirring and fun of incident, exciting It lively interest in the progress of events and thc fate of the characters ; the interest is sustained by the powerful di:di-vie in the second and third acts; but afterwards it languishes till the sttention is wearied, and the fall of the curtain is welcomed as a coup du graee to terminate the protracted misery of the catastrophe. This is partly owing to a badly-constructed plot and a bunglinp;denonement,—defeets that are found in other of KNOWLES'S plays which have had a longer lease of popularity than The Bride of Messina is likely to enjoy ; but the chief causes of failure are the spinning-out into five acts materials that only suffice for three, and the imperfect development of cha- racter in the persons ofthe drama.

The hero is John di Procida, the leader of the revolt against the French conquerors of Sicily, that ended in the bloody massacre Loos, n as the Sicilian "Vespers. The horrors of' the slaughter are with goad taste only itadeated, mat enacted : indeed, the historical events are a mere background, in front of whieit the pair of lovers vhose fate they in- fluence, exhibit the struggle of duty and affection, Jsoline, the Bride ot' Messina, is the daughter of the French Governor ; and her bride- groom Fernando, a young Sicilian, proves to be the long-lost son of John di Procida, who had been proscribed, his castle pillaged, aml his wife ravished by this very Governor. The double conflict at' filial duty ; and minuet love on the part of the young couple, constitutes the main passion of the drama : till. powerful love prevails, end the pair are wedded by stealth : but the storm of political vengeance busts; their bridal-couch is their bed of death, and Joint di Procida is hailed as the liberator of Sicily over the corpse of his new-found son.

Such a subject, revolting as are the main snare:is of the passion,

could have been made into an impressive tragetly,"had the historieal events been more prominently interwoven with the fortunes of the lovers: as it is, John of Procida might have as well been John of' Paris, for aught that he does towards the liberation of Sicily. He excites no sympathy either for his private wrongs or those of' his country ; and instead. of being formidable, he is merely disagreeable. Joint of Procida achieves nothing: he is described as eloquent, but he can- not win over his son to his cause ; he lets the wicked Governor escape his vengeance ; and is fain to bless the bride whose lips he deemed pol- lution to his son, beetuve she oars himself safe conduret. Fernando is a more noble and vigorom; character : his father's reproaches and ex- hortations shake his rcsaintion for a while, but his Inidt.!'S heart- stirring appeal coniirms his walvering purpose, anti he is true to her to the last. Isoline is still more determined ; she prefers sharing her father's danger to tlyitic with her lover to a place of safety. The deaths of the pair are perfectly gratuitotti: the lady swoons only to give her husband, who thinks her dead, an opportunity of getiimr killed, and conies to lu.•rseIf directly afterwards that she may die of ei:nee upon his corpse.

A drama thus ill. constructed could not have been Si) far successful

as to have survived the first night, had there not been some highly- wmught scenes in the course of it. The situations in the first act are very striking: the briital procession is interrupted by a frieed and countryman of the bridegroom rushing in to claim prowetion, an-1 dying at his feet ; and agaiu by the entrance of Joha Ii l'INI■2i(la. dis- guised as a monk, who forldils the rites. The imetedew that follows between the father and sou is highly dramatis., occupyiug. the whole of the second act without appearing too long; and tt:o ,raceeeding scene between the lovcrs, where Fernando coin, s to telt Is! Oh they must part, and the woman's influence prevails over the patri- otic fervour and filial feeling of Forualvio, is equally et:',Ttive, vith the advantage of being more boldly conceived and beanti Cully managed.

The idea milkinK a virgin bride claim the fulfilment of the min.-

rine-contract at the hauds of a fmnl but rehmtant hritlosl'oth ever natural in itself mid, mummer, consonant with ults sir:co.:4 nine Purity, is difficult to work taut; but KNOWLE,;.:, ,,!.:011■11,10 fnu carries him through triumphantly, without violating cons etional nicety. much less infringing true delicacy. From this seelle i windil Like ;le extract or two; 'lint quotations convey an imperfect i■lea in. the eLl‘.1 excellence or the dial, if

Virit 11.,rac!,•r

appears to spt.ak the 10h:en:rye of his own emotions, mid lo 'lave a Phr pose in what he utters; mal we (Nee the effect ot his speech in the inm- duet and replies or the person he nddresses. The pout ry glows with the fervid eloquence of passion ; and it differs as much t'rou) Ow cold, glittering conceits of rheterical declamation, as a liviter man with it heart beating in his bosom does from a marble statue or a waxen image.

llut the healthful pulse bents in a feeble frame. We would willingly pass over, as trilling blemishes, the melodrantatie :MS by whielt practised author prolongs the svelte, tiny produeud the effect in- tended ; but they do not. For hist:ince, when the c•mseienee. stricken Governor, in Ills pattio• fear, repulses his damthter, who had jeoparded her life to save his, such clings to him for protest Mu, wa are merely shocked : the craven miscreant only feels remorse when the hour of retributinn arrives, :Ind the spectres that haunt hint life Phantoms conjured up by his cowardice. Indeed, the attempt to give intsrest to this base character fails entirely, and seems only to have lesst made in order to eke out tile horrors of the fifth :mt. Again, the 'killing of Peruando by his quondam friend, svhile the distracted husband holds in his arms the lifele,ts body of his supposed dead wife, outrages aiiks. probability and feeliog ; such a sight is otdd have arrested the sword of protni,enous slaughter, and ought to have paralyzed the artn of a gelesrotts friend and fellow-cottutrytuan, estranged only by political differences.

The c,,.:ting, though the performers do 111,4r bat, falls short of the requirements of the inission ; if we except ANI)1:1;!-ON, whose manhood, emrgy, and ardour, as Ferertr.•1••, inal.e lose sight of the defects common to all actins- of' the pis sent day• --1Fiie and boisterous- ness : we do not attach need, %slue to o facets," bat that which he makes when, re-Iihss to emlssise his father, he pauses, throws aside his sword, and sic, to his :.,!11.1 app.-opiate as well as

effective. Mi ••• Ems p...stiyes of tender ,tion and yield-

ing gentleness, 1.1.• LIS lk•Iter ill remonstratcs arid plays the necolne : the pleading of Iseli7c12 to her lover is the resolution of a ll•lel and Itithful heart laar,ling through the modest

timidity of the ; xi•hereirs Tri:••: to her speech and action a ready and deci-ier; intrepidity 111.1 iftlientes sn habitual deter- mination of will, than an outhreak of spirit prompted

by ardent affection. The petite, •er Ile • .•.r that Miss TBEZ affect C ---.ptielimet.,s of reply, rvid hot :,ttlAtie.7, vellytheitc.! of tone and gestnrc curt:lewd - v. t• Irg.11e.C,11•••,' Wi!I:,i,r/I.O■' permanently attr.icrive. Mr. ...ilore:E lecki tc 0, intlexi',1e patriot—for sueh ../e/it4 1',...•;.•;•/n I...presented in the his pliysieal powers ate pot adequate to eel :-ess strong (lin •tion aild diitinCt neSS to 1111..ro large c'tt t,rea at, Cove:A C.1r.1,01/ t" : he does ttot appear to po,sa rt."7,11ree.; of art tic .. (.11,,T,O.q,..r in action ; Ibr his perform:w delieLat icc 1,..,•-.1ty mysterious personage who mizIlt to strike the :,eind

with awe•--ivla •e: majesty or den:, anitir slidol I 'A; ...css loftiness of pur- pose, commanding i•ow•er, and itch eeitalle r,sehttide---is not realized in

the personation oh' Mr. •I•doe.;... e,citee-y. 1,Ltiveeri the

author's failure and the :U:tko.''S is c-',ek, irresolute,

and tedito•res,ivc. Coomat plays (;,,i.,,,tedo, by whose hand I'd, falls, with great ease and lelss; lett the (..1!...r..eNr is one cf

impulse, which 111 f. trinal marmerisin. 1)ritttEAft, as the Covernor, well beeentes the spi,:atlid ..lres and air of command;

and he gives as much effee.: ,..,11,1e to a chic rider that is hardly in-

teresting enoti.411 In eNe;to t,version. W. hi. Pavers as .1/s411cti, has only to rush in like a hauled o least dogged by his pursuers, and

die calling on his murt1,-rol t1 • ; 1,;;; endets

with thrilling pati;•:•:. A II:dist:0es v c It ic,e.; eecurrsd on the first niadit : Iodine, a; pe.ditis. I., two cavaliers fer as-i-ttanee, exclaimed,

‘. 7:.1.t are men of lioneM.: • groteepte sm....gy With -.1+14.11 lth ...

clappeci their hands to r1.,•1•: henrts, '• •i.- in-e, elicited a

roar of laughter. 'fire pus.ez has since I.een struck out.

• 'file costumes are, as usual, 1 ia tiste; and the

scenery, throng-bent Iletttri2sque and ineludes some set scenes" that are atittmea'.1,.• et.eat.ion, of art, litre the

4:1:arch, with the ; Ceecd.d Iv re..1 de.s strewing flowers

aim singing in chorus, a, eh • drivesg. :a the sostoas citizens

that pursue 3lerii•:i rei.red strewn with fallen capi- tals al,:■ c.....gin,r1t.; of IC•.1..1 1:1 tic.?

and t112 vivid- f ihe Ir.iy, vich dcc. t le-erdw nil reek in fo:,c.ieeer.•1. • • a tile cc cc •••1:.:.•g• yeee: .1., ,•.•,•11 ler i-f

distant rippl.• Ihe --are ;',.• mon

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