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THE TRAGEDY OF ISRAEL.
PART I. KING SAUL.
GEORGE FRANCIS ARMSTRONG.
FCAP. 8vo., CLOTH, 55. LONGMANS & Co.
“The character of Saul is delineated powerfully and comprehensively, as what it probably was in reality, a character of confusions, of energies not quelled, but stimulated from morbid sources, and utterly undirected. The violent, but always unsuccessful, efforts of remorse to find oblivion in a deliberate attitude of defiance, the sense of the hollowness of kingship when severed from the reality of influence, and the king's still eager love of his people, though blurred always by despair, and sometimes by the brute impulse of impotent jealousy against the fore-destined successor, have been taken up one after the other in Mr. ARMSTRONG's drama in a really masterly manner. He has made great way since the publication of Ugone, and we can scarcely find a higher commendation for the tragedy of King Saul than to say that, in choosing his subject, its author did not overtax his legitimate strength. ... The central figure is itself so laden with interest that it is easy to overlook the dramatic power and vitality of those which are quite subordinate. The somewhat wearied, but true and unswerving loyalty of Abner, is excellently illustrated in this tragedy. There is a great deal of skill in the treatment of the two daughters, Merab and Michal, and in the ready intuition with which, after the victory won against the Philistines, Saul penetrates the relations held by the two towards David ... The Israelites maintain the functions of a chorus throughout, sometimes in lyrical strophes, sometimes in ordinary metre, almost always in good keeping with the general effect, and never obtrusively. When Saul is at the height of his rage, after the execution of Agag, they announce his coming very much in the half-muttering manner of a Greek semi-chorus . . . The cool, hard persuasiveness of Doeg, goading the king into the false step of the massacre of the priests, is conceived and worked out with great care, and is one of the most powerful things in the book. And the absolute, self-regardless devotion of Jonathan at once to his father's enemy and to his father is drawn with real beauty and without a touch of excessive colouring. We have said enough to indicate our general belief in Mr. ARMSTRONG's powers, and our appreciation of this particular work. . . He has genius enough, and industry enough, to write wisely and well and enduringly in the field where he has already begun to work with prosperous omens.”
From the “EXAMINER." "At last we have, in the King Saul of Mr. GEORGE FRANCIS ARMSTRONG, a Biblical drama of sterling and very high poetical and critical merit. This work appears to be the first of a trilogy, but it is complete in itself. It depicts the closing scenes in the life of Saul, from the time when he spared the Kenites and Agag, King of the Amalekites, and thereby displeased Samuel, who had ordered a merciless extermination in the name of the Lord God of Israel. Mr. ARMSTRONG's interpretation of this important and significant episode in Jewish history shows deep insight, and his conception is worked out with subtle power and great artistic skill. It is the struggle of human reason and feeling against priestly authority and dogma that is delineated in this drama, and its chief interest and action turn upon the inner conflict between these opposing forces in the mind of Saul himself. But for his inability to shake himself entirely free from the faith that Samuel and the prophets were the oracles of God, Saul, to all appearance, could have overcome the external powers he had to contend against, formidable as these powers were. His madness, ruin, and death were the direct results of the doubt that wrung his soul. The attitude of Saul towards the God of Israel, in Mr. ARMSTRONG's drama, reminds us of that of Prometheus towards Zeus; but the former does not see his position so clearly, nor can he accept it with equal deliberation and decision. . . . It is with passion alone that Saul carries on the assault, and the subtle power to which he