Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

better than Portia's inasmuch as, springing rather from nature than from reflection, it comes forth so freely that she never thinks of it herself. Then too her strength of intellect hides itself in delicacy; her variety and amplitude of mind in the exquisite grace and symmetry of all the parts. And how delightfully her mental action hovers in what may be called the border-land of instinct and consciousness, or of intuition and discourse! so that we are often at a loss whether it is she that speaks, or Nature that speaks through her. Clearness of understanding, depth and purity of feeling, simplicity and harmony of character, and the whole complexion made eloquent with perfect inward freshness and health, — such is this most Shakespearian structure of womanhood. Hence, while she always takes care that her thoughts and deeds be handsome and right, — hence the charming unconcernedness with which she leaves the event to take care of itself.

Imogen is as spirited, withal, as she is intelligent, whenever duty bids or permits her to be so. Her anger is hard indeed to arouse, but woe to the man that does arouse it. Notwithstanding her sharp trials and vexations, though fursued by cunning malice and “sprighted by a fool,” the calm sweetness of her temper is ruffled but twice, and this is when duty to herself and her husband requires it. In both cases her anger is like a flash of lightning, brief, but sure. Not even Cloten’s iron stomach is proof against her scorching strokes, when her spirit is up. And she is all the more beautiful that she knows how to be terrible.

Of her disguise we take no thought, because she takes none. In this behalf, however, the Poet is very careful of her, bringing her in contact with none but the honourable and holy Lucius, and the tender and reverential dwellers in the cave, where her modesty is in no peril from the familiarity of those who believe her to be what she seems; otherwise her sensitive feminine delicacy would be almost sure to discover her. But, as it is, she shows no fear and makes no effort, either, like Rosalind, lest she betray her sex to others, or, like Viola, lest she wrong it to herself: all its proprieties are indeed preserved; yet she seems no more conscious of doing this than of the circulation of her blood. Her thoughts and feelings are intent on other matters; and such is her command of our sympathies, that for the time being she empties our minds of every thing but what is in her own. And it is much the same with her personal beauty: we never think of it at all save when others are speaking of it. And the reason seems to be, partly because she wears it so unconsciously herself, partly because, when she is before us, the radiance of her person is quenched in that of her mind and

outer is scarce heeded more than if it were not.

We can hardly say that Imogen is made any better by her trials and sufferings, for she seems just the same at the first as at the last. But hers is the far nobler part to suffer that others may be made better: for herself she seems to have needed no such discipline, but others needed that she should have it; and we have seen how her sufferings work the redemption of her principal wrongers. Need I add how divinely the Poet has woven into the texture of this delineation the profoundly Christian idea that the truly miserable person is not the sufferer but the doer of wrong?

In the two Princes the Poet again shows his preference of the innate to the acquired ; if indeed one may venture to affirm what is due to nature, and what to art, in a place where have fallen the instructions of the veteran sage and hero whom they call father. From the lips of old Belarius they have drunk in the lore of wisdom and virtue: all their nobler aptitudes have been fed and nourished alike by the stories of his life and by the influences of their mountain. home. What they hear from him makes them desire to be like him when they are old; and this desire prompts them to go where he has been, see what he has seen, and do as he has done. So that all his arguments for keeping them withdrawn from the world are refuted by his own character; they cannot rest away from the scenes where such treasures grow. He tells them,

“ The gates of monarchs
Are arch'd so high, that giants may jet through,
And keep their impious turbans on, without

Good morrow to the Sun": he warns them that this life

“ Is nobler than attending for a check ;

Prouder than rustling in unpaid-for silk": he assures them that for twenty years

" Here he has liv'd at honest freedom; paid
More pious debts to Heaven than in all

The fore-end of his time": still they cannot but believe that the seed, which has ripened up into a wisdom so august and tender and sweet, was sown in him, as indeed it was, before he came there. The wealth of experience in him and the wealth of nature in them are both equally beautiful in their way, both equally becoming in their place; and if they have been to him the best of

materials to work upon, he has also been to them the best ose of workmen. And yet the old man, glorious in his humility, to imputes to their royal blood the high and heroic thoughts

which his own great and childlike spirit has breathed into them :

. O thou goddess,
Thou divine Nature, how thyself thou blazon'st
In these two princely boys! They are as gentle
As zephyrs, blowing below the violet,
Not wagging his sweet head ; and yet as rough,
Their royal blood enchaf'd, as the rud'st wind,
That by the top doth take the mountain pine,
And make him stoop to th vale. 'Tis wonderful
That an invisible instinct should frame them
To royalty unlearn'd; honour untaught;
Civility not seen from other ; valour,
That wildly grows in them, but yields a crop

As if it had been sow’d."
The Poet had no occasion to discriminate these young

[ocr errors]

gentlemen very sharply, still on close inspection we can see that they are by no means duplicates. The elder, Guiderius, is the stronger and manlier spirit of the two; Arviragus the more gentle and tender. Accordingly the former, when Cloten tries to frighten him with his empty bravado, answers, —

“ Those that I reverence, those I fear, the wise ;

At fools I laugh, not fear them.” So too in his sportive daring of consequences, after he has cut off the poor thing's head :

“I'll throw 't into the creek
Behind our rock ; and let it to the sea,
To tell the fishes he's the Queen's son, Cloten :

That's all I reck.” On the other hand, Arviragus, in his grief at the seeming death of Imogen, loses himself in the pathetic legend of the Children dying in the wood, and the robins covering them with moss and flowers, till his brother chides him for “playing in wench-like words with that which is so serious.”

But they both reflect with equal clearness the image of their teaching. Except themselves, truth, piety, gentleness, heroism, are the only inmates of their rocky dwelling. Love and reverence, the principles of whatsoever is greatest and best in human character, have sprung up in their breasts in healthy, happy proportion, and indissolubly wedded themselves to the simple and majestic forms of Nature around them. And how inexpressibly tender and sweet the pathos that mingles in their solemnities round the tomb of their gentle visitor, supposed to be dead! But, indeed, of these forest-scenes it is impossible to speak with any sort of justice. And we cannot tell whether the “holy witchcraft” of these scenes is owing more to the heroic veteran, the two princely boys, or the “fair youth” that has strayed amongst them,

“A lovely apparition, sent

To be a moment's ornament.” It is hardly too much to say, that whatever is most beauti

ful elsewhere in the Poet is imaged here in happier beauty. And when the youthful dwellers in the mountain and the rock, awed and melted by the occasion, weep and warble over the grave of that "blessed thing” that seems to have dropped down from Heaven merely to win their love and vanish, one would think the scene must, as Schlegel says, “ give to the most deadened imagination a new life for

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]

THE TRAGEDY OF OTHELLO was entered at the Stationers' by Thomas Walkley, “under the hands of Sir George Buck and of the Wardens,” in October, 1621, and was published in quarto the next year. It was also included in the folio collection of 162, and was printed again in quarto in 1630. These three copies differ more or less among themselves : in particular, the folio has a number of passages, amounting in all to some hundred and sixty lines, that are wanting in the quarto of 1622. On the other hand, the latter has a few lines that are wanting in the folio; while the quarto of 1630 seems to have been made up from the other two. On the whole, the text has reached us in a pretty fair condition; though there are a few passages where the reading stands much in question, and gives little hope of being altogether cleared from doubt.

Until a recent date, this great drama was commonly supposed to have been among the latest of the Poet's writing. But, within the last fifty years, two alleged manuscript records have been produced which quite upset the old belief. One of these was given by Mr. Collier from the Egerton Papers,” showing the play to have been acted before Queen Elizabeth at Harefield, the seat of Lord-Keeper Egerton, in August, 1602. The other, purporting to be from “the Accounts of the Revels at Court,” and produced

from ton, in Atabeth at Hareto play to he

« AnteriorContinuar »