Page:The thirty-six dramatic situations (1921).djvu/58

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56 THIRTY-SIX DRAMATIC SITUATIONS

in the leading roles. Lady Macbeth is a somnambulist and dies in hysteria, her husband is a victim of hallucinations; the same may be said of Hamlet, who is a lypemaniac besides; of Timon also; Othello is an epileptic and King Lear completely deranged. It is on this account that the great William is so dangerous a model (Goethe would not read him more than once a year). He has played, to some extent, the same role as Michael-Angelo, — he has exaggerated the springs of action to the farthest limits of reality, beyond which his disciples fall immediately into mere ridiculous affectation.

On the other hand, if we except the pretext of studying insanity in itself, which "Ajax" has furnished from Astydamus to Ennius, and from Ennius to Emperor Augustus, I find nothing "Shakespearean" in the drama of antiquity except "Orestes." All other characters are in the enjoyment of their senses, and do not thereby become any less pathetic. "Œdipus" alone shows, in default of abnormality in the hero's psychologic constitution, external events of an extraordinary character (a resource since so largely used by the Romanticists of 1830 and later). But the rest of the antique dramatic types are evolved in accordance with normal passions, and under objective conditions relatively common.