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wreck; and he is merry while others are suffering, and merry even from sympathy with them; and afterwards his thoughtful spirit plays with Utopian fancies ; and if “ the latter end of his Commonwealth forgets the beginning,” it is all the same to him, his purpose being only to beguile the anguish of supposed bereavement. It has been well said that “Gonzalo is so occupied with duty, in which alone he finds pleasure, that he scarce notices the gnat-stings of wit with which his opponents pursue him; or, if he observes, firmly and easily repels them.” [The comic portions and characters of this play are in Shakespeare's raciest vein; yet they are perfectly unique and singular withal, being quite unlike any other of his preparations in that kind, as much so as if they were the growth of a different planet.
The presence of Trinculo and Stephano in the play has sometimes been regarded as a blemish. I cannot think it so. Their part is not only good in itself as comedy, but is in admirable keeping with the rest. Their follies give a zest and relish to the high poetries amidst which they grow. Such things go to make up the mysterious whole of human life; and they often help on our pleasure while seeming to hinder it: we may think they were better left out, but, were they left out, we should somehow feel the want of them. Besides, this part of the work, if it does not directly yield a grateful fragrance, is vitally connected with the parts that do. For there is perhaps no one of the Poet's dramas of which it can be more justly affirmed that all the parts draw together in organic unity, so that every thing helps every other thing.
Such are the strangely-assorted characters that make up this charming play. This harmonious working together of diverse and opposite elements, — this smooth concurrence of heterogeneous materials in one varied yet coherent impression, — by what subtile process this is brought about, is perhaps too deep a problem for Criticism to solve.
I cannot leave the theme without remarking what an atmosphere of wonder and mystery overhangs and pervades this singular structure; and how the whole seems steeped in glories invisible to the natural eye, yet made visible by the Poet's art: so that the effect is to lead the thoughts insensibly upwards to other worlds and other forms of being. It were difficult to name any thing else of human workmanship so thoroughly transfigured with
“the gleam, The light that never was on sea or land,
The consecration and the poet's dream.” The celestial and the earthly are here so commingled, — commingled, but not confounded, — that we see not where the one begins or the other ends : so that in the reading we seem transported to a region where we are strangers, yet old acquaintances; where all things are at once new and familiar; the unearthly visions of the spot hardly touching us with surprise, because, though wonderful indeed, there is nothing about them but what readily finds or creates some answering powers and sympathies within us. In other words, they do not surprise us, because they at once kindle us into fellowship with them. That our thoughts and feelings are thus at home with such things, and take pleasure in them, — is not this because of some innate aptitudes and affinities of our nature for a supernatural and celestial life?
“ Point not these mysteries to an art
Lodg'd above the starry pole ?”
THE WINTER'S TALE.
In SHAKESPEARE's time there lived in London one Simon Forman, M. D., to whom we are indebted for our earliest notice of THE WINTER'S TALE. He was rather an odd genius, I should think; being an adept in occult science and the arts of magic, and at the same time an
ardent lover of the stage; thus symbolizing at once with the most conservative and the most radical tendencies of the age: for, strange as it may seem, the Drama then led the van of progress ; Shakespeare being even a more audacious innovator in poetry and art than Bacon was in philosophy. Be this as it may, Forman evidently took great delight in the theatre, and he kept a diary of what he witnessed there. Not many years ago, the manuscript of this diary was discovered by Mr. Collier in the Ashmolean Museum, and a portion of its contents published. Forman was at the Globe theatre on Wednesday, the 15th of May, 1611, and under that date he records “how Leontes the King of Sicilia was overcome with jealousy of his wife with the King of Bohemia, his friend that came to see him, and how he contrived his death, and would have had his cup-bearer poison him, who gave the King warning thereof, and fled with him to Bohemia. Also, how he sent to the oracle of Apollo, and the answer of Apollo was that she was guiltless; and except the child was found again that was lost, the King should die without issue : for the child was carried into Bohemia, and there laid in a forest, and brought up by a shepherd; and the King of Bohemia's son married that wench, and they fled into Sicilia, and by the jewels found about her she was known to be Leontes' daughter, and was then sixteen years old.”
This clearly identifies the performance seen by Forman as The Winter's Tale of Shakespeare. It is altogether probable that the play was then new, and was in its first course of exhibition. For Sir George Buck became Master of the Revels in October, 1610, and was succeeded in that office by Sir Henry Herbert in 1623, who passed The Winter's Tale without examination, on the ground of its being an “old play formerly allowed by Sir George Buck.” As the play had to be licensed before it could be performed, this ascertains its first performance to have been after October, 1610. So that The Winter's Tale was most likely presented for official sanction some time between that date and the 15th of May following, when Forman saw it at the Globe. To all this must be added the internal characteristics of the play itself, which is in the Poet's ripest and most idiomatic style of art. It is not often that the date of his workmanship can be so closely remarked. The Winter's Tale was never printed, so far as we know, till it appeared in the folio of 1623.
In the plot and incidents of this play, Shakespeare followed very closely the Pandosto, or, as it was sometimes called, the Dorastus and Fawnia, of Robert Greene. This novel appears to have been one of the most popular books of the time; there being no less than fourteen old editions of it known, the first of which was in 1588. Greene was a scholar, a man of some genius, Master of Arts in both the Universities, and had indeed much more of learning than of judgment in the use and application of it. For it seems as if he could not write at all without overloading his pages with classical allusion, nor hit upon any thought so trite and commonplace, but that he must run it through a series of aphoristic sentences twisted out of Greek and Roman lore. In this respect, he is apt to remind one of his fellowdramatist, Thomas Lodge, whose Rosalynd contributed so much to the Poet's As You Like It : for it was then much the fashion for authors to prank up their matter with superfluous erudition. Like all the surviving works of Greene, Pandosto is greatly charged with learned impertinence, and in the annoyance thence resulting one is apt to overlook the real merit of the performance. It is better than Lodge's Rosalynd for this reason, if for no other, that it is shorter. I must condense so much of the tale as may suffice to indicate the nature and extent of the Poet's obligations.
Pandosto, King of Bohemia, and Egistus, King of Sicilia, had passed their boyhood together, and grown into a mutual friendship which kept its hold on them long after coming to their crowns. Pandosto had for his wife a very wise
and beautiful lady named Bellaria, who had made him the father of a prince called Garinter in whom both himself and his people greatly delighted. After many years of separation, Egistus “sailed into Bohemia to visit his old friend,” who, hearing of his arrival, went with a great train of lords and ladies to meet him, received him very lovingly, and wished his wife to welcome him. No pains were spared to honour the royal visitor and make him feel at home. Bellaria, “ to show how much she liked him whom her husband loved,” treated Egistus with great confidence, often going herself to his chamber to see that nothing should be amiss. This honest familiarity increased from day to day, insomuch that when Pandosto was busy with State affairs they would walk into the garden and pass their time in pleasant devices. After a while, Pandosto began to have doubtful thoughts, considering the beauty of his wife, and the comeliness and bravery of his friend. This humour growing upon him, he went to watching them, and fishing for proofs to confirm his suspicions. At length his mind got so charged with jealousy that he felt quite certain of the thing he feared, and studied for nothing so much as revenge. He resolved to work by poison, and called upon his cup-bearer, Franion, to execute the scheme, and pressed him to it with the alternative of preferment or death. The minister, after trying his best to dissuade the King, at last gave his consent, in order to gain time, then went to Egistus, and told him the secret, and fled with him to Sicilia. Full of rage at being thus baffled, Pandosto then let loose his fury against the Queen, ordering her forthwith into close prison. He then had his suspicion proclaimed as a certain truth; and though her character went far to discredit the charge, yet the sudden flight of Egistus caused it to be believed. And he would fain have made war on Egistus, but that the latter not only was of great strength and prowess, but had many kings in his alliance, his wife being daughter to the Emperor of Russia. · Meanwhile the Queen in prison gave birth to a daughter;