Hazlitt's June 1820 Review of Mr. Kean's Performanace as King Lear
William Hazlitt, the greatest English essayist of the Romantic Period, knew both Keats and Shelley. I have extracted this from Hazlitt's review of Mr. Keans performance of King Lear. He did not like Mr. Kean's performance.
William Hazlitt, Self-Portrait
Lear should electrify.
. . . the gigantic outspread sorrows of King Lear. Lear is more like a sea, swelling, chaffing, raging, without bound, without hope, without beacon or anchor, torn from the hold of his affections and fixed purposes, he floats a mighty wreck in the wide world of sorrows.
Lear’s injuries are without provocation, and admit no alleviation of atonement. They are strange, bewildering, overwhelming. The action of the mind, however, under this load of disabling circumstances, is brought out in the play in the most masterly and triumphant manner; it staggers under them, but it does not yield.
It is not enough that Lear’s crosses and perplexities are expressed by single strokes. There should be an agglomeration of horrors, closing him in like a phalanx. His speech should be thick with the fullness of his agony. His face should, as it were encrust and stiffen into amazement at his multiplied afflictions . . . His wrongs should seem enlarged tenfold through the solid atmosphere of his despair – his thought should be vast and lurid, like the sun when he declines – he should be “a huge dumb heap of woe.”