« AnteriorContinuar »
here its exquisite poetry first fell upon the very different from the honeyed luxuriance ear of some secluded scholar, and was to of his spring-time--more subjected to his inhim as a fragrant flower blooming amidst tellectual penetration into the hidden springs the arid sands of his Bracton and his Fleta; of human action-more regulated by the and here its gentle satire upon the vain and artistical skill of blending the poetical with the foolish penetrated into the natural heart the comic, so that in fact they are not preof some grave and formal dispenser of justice, sented as opposite principles constrained to and made him look with tolerance, if not with appear in a patchwork union, but are essympathy, upon the mistakes of less grave sentially one and the same creation of the and formal fellow-men; and here its ever- highest imaginative power. We are told gushing spirit of enjoyment,-of fun with that of "Twelfth Night' the scenes in which out malice, of wit without grossness, of Malvolio, and Sir Toby, and Sir Andrew humour without extravagance,-taught the appear are Shakspere's own. The Duke, swaggering, roaring, overgrown boy, mis- and Olivia, and Viola, and Sebastian, belong called student, that there were higher to some one else, it is said, because they sources of mirth than affrays in Fleet Street, existed, before he evoked them from their or drunkenness in Whitefriars. Venerable hiding-places, in the rude outlines of storyHall of the Middle Temple, thou art to our books without poetry, and comedies without eyes more stately and more to be admired wit. Honoured be the memories of Bandello since we looked upon that entry in the and Barnaby Rich, not so much for their own Table-book of John Manningham! The work as for the happy accident by which Globe has perished, and so has the Black- they saved some popular tradition from obfriars. The works of the poet who made livion, for a Shakspere to make his own for the names of these frail buildings immortal all ages! Honoured be the learned or unneed no associations to recommend them ; | learned authors of the 'Inganni' and the but it is yet pleasant to know that there is ‘Ingannati,' if they suggested to him that one locality remaining where a play of Shak- their shadowy representations of a wandering spere was listened to by his contemporaries; brother and sister, coming through mistakes and that play, 'Twelfth Night.'
and crosses to love and happiness, had in Accepting, though somewhat doubtingly, them dramatic capabilities such as he could the statement of the commentators that deal with! Honoured be they, as we would "Twelfth Night' was produced as late as
honour the man, were his name recorded, 1614, Schlegel says, “If this was really the who set the palette of Raphael or made last work of Shakspere, as is affirmed, he Paganini's violin! Whether a writer inmust have enjoyed to the last the same vents, in the commonly received meaning of youthfulness of mind, and have carried with invention,—that is, whether his incidents him to the grave the whole fulness of his and characters be spick-and-span new ;-or talents.”* There is something very agree whether he borrows, using the same ordinary able in this theory; but we can hardly la- phraseology, his incidents and characters ment that the foundation upon which it from tradition, or history, or written legends, rests has been utterly destroyed. Shakspere -he is not a poet unless his materials are did, indeed, carry “ with him to the grave worked up into a perfect and consistent the whole fulness of his talents,” but they whole: and if the poetry be not in him, it were talents, perhaps not of a higher order, matters little whether he raises his fabric but certainly employed upon loftier subjects, “all out of his own head,” as children say, than those which were called out by the de or adopts a bit here and a bit there, and licious comedies of the Shakspere of forty. pieces them together with a bit of his own, His "youthfulness of mind” too, even at --for his house will not stand; it is built this middle period of his life, is something upon the sands. Now it is this penetration * Lectures on Dramatic Literature,'Black's translation,
of his own imaginative power in and through all his materials which renders it of little
vol. ii. p. 175.
more account than as a matter of antiquarian From the first line to the last from the curiosity where Shakspere picked up hints Duke's for the plots of his plays. He might have
“That strain again ;—it had a dying fall,” found the germ of Viola in Barnaby Rich;
to the Clown's and he might have altogether invented Malvolio : but Viola and Malvolio are for
“With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,”— ever indissolubly united, in the exact pro- there is not a thought, nor a situation, that portions in which the poetic and the comic is not calculated to call forth pleasurable work together for the production of a har- feelings. The love-melancholy of the Duke monious effect. The neutral title of "Twelfth is a luxurious abandonment to one pervading Night'-conveying as it does a notion of impression—not a fierce and hopeless congenial mirth-might warrant us in thinking test with one o'ermastering passion. It dethat there was a preponderance of the comic lights to lie“ canopied with bowers,”—to spirit. Charles I. appears to have thought listen to “old and antique " songs, which so, when, in his copy of the second edition of dally with its “innocence,”—to be “full of Shakspere, he altered the title with his own shapes,” and “high fantastical.” The love pen to that of Malvolio.'* But Malvolio of Viola is the sweetest and tenderest emois not the predominant idea of the comedy; tion that ever informed the heart of the nor is he of that exclusive interest that the purest and most graceful of beings with a whole action, even of the merely comic por- spirit almost divine. Perhaps in the whole tions, should turn upon him. When Shak-range of Shakspere's poetry there is nothing spere means one character to be the centre which comes more unbidden into the mind, of the dramatic idea, he for the most part and always in connection with some image tells us so in his title :-Hamlet, Othello, of the ethereal beauty of the utterer, than Lear, Macbeth, Timon. Not one of the Viola's “She never told her love.” The love comedies has such a personal title, for the of Olivia, wilful as it is, is not in the slightest evident reason that the effect in them must degree repulsive. With the old stories before mainly depend upon the harmony of all the him, nothing but the refined delicacy of parts, rather than upon the absorbing passion Shakspere's conception of the female chaof the principal character. The “Twelfth racter could have redeemed Olivia from apNight' is especially of this description. It proaching to the anti-feminine. But as it is presents us with the golden and the silver we pity her, and we rejoice with her. These sides of human life,—the romantic and the are what may be called the serious characters, humorous. But the two precious metals are because they are the vehicles for what we moulded into one statue.
emphatically call the poetry of the play. It is scarcely necessary for us to enter into But the comic characters are to us equally any analysis of the plot of this charming poetical—that is, they appear to us not mere comedy, or attempt any dissection of its copies of the representatives of temporary characters, for the purpose of opening to the or individual follies, but embodyings of the reader new sources of enjoyment. It is im- universal comic, as true and as fresh to-day possible, we think, for one of ordinary sensi as they were two centuries and a half ago. bility to read through the first act without Malvolio is to our minds as poetical as yielding himself up to the genial temper in Don Quixote; and we are by no means sure which the entire play is written.
that Shakspere meant the poor cross-gartered shine of the breast” spreads its rich purple steward only to be laughed at, any more light over the whole champaign, and pene- than Cervantes did the knight of the rueful trates into every thicket and every dingle. countenance. He meant us to pity him, as
Olivia and the Duke pitied him; for, in truth, * This copy, which formerly belonged to Steevens, was the delusion by which Malvolio was wrecked, purchased for the private library of George III., and was retained when George IV. gave that valuable collection to
only passed out of the romantic into the It is now in the Queen's Library at Windsor. comic through the manifestation of the
“ The sun
vanity of the character in reference to his “ make the welkin dance;”—the humorist, situation. But if we laugh at Malvolio we the fool, and the philosopher!—for Sir Andrew are not to laugh ill-naturedly, for the poet is the fool, and the Clown is the philosopher. has conducted all the mischief against him We hold the Clown's epilogue song to be the in a spirit in which there is no real malice most philosophical Clown's song upon record; at the bottom of the fun. Sir Toby is a most and a treatise might be written upon its genuine character,—one given to strong po- wisdom. It is the history of a life, from tations and boisterous merriment; but with the condition of “a little tiny boy,” through a hunour about him perfectly irresistible. “man's estate,” to decaying age—“when I His abandon to the instant opportunity of came unto my bed;" and the conclusion is, laughing at and with others is something that what is true of the individual is true of so thoroughly English, that we are not sur the species, and what was of yesterday was prised the poet gave him an English name. of generations long past away-for And like all genuine humorists Sir Toby “A great while ago the world begun.”. must have his butt. What a trio is pre- Steevens' says this “nonsensical ditty” is sented in that glorious scene of the second utterly unconnected with the subject of the act, where the two Knights and the Clown comedy. We think he is mistaken.
MEASURE FOR MEASURE.
This comedy was first printed in the of the versification in this comedy was, we folio collection of 1623, and there had been are satisfied, the result of the author's no previous claim to the right of printing it system ; and, from the integrity with which made by any entry in the registers of the it has been preserved in the first edition, we Stationers' Company. We are very much believe that the original manuscript passed inclined to think, from the state of the directly through the hands of the printer, original text, that the editors of the first who made the best of it without any refolio possessed no copy but that from which ference to other copies. they printed. Some of the sentences through We cannot trace that any allusion to out the play are so involved that they have Measure for Measure' is to be found in the very little the appearance of being taken works of Shakspere's contemporaries. There from a copy which had been used by the is, indeed, a passage in a poem published in actors; and in two cases a word is found in 1607 which conveys the same idea as a pasthe text (prenzie) which could never have sage in 'Measure for Measure: -been given upon the stage, and appears to “ And like as when some sudden extasy have been inserted by the printer in despair Seizeth the nature of a sickly man; of deciphering the author's manuscript. When he's discern'd to swoon, straight by On the other hand, the metrical arrange and by ment, which has been called “rough, re Folk to his help confusedly have ran, dundant, and irregular," was strictly copied, And seeking with their art to fetch him back, we have no doubt, from the author's original; So many throng, that he the air doth lack.” for a printer does not mistake the beginnings
(Myrrha, the Mother of Adonis,' by and ends of blank-verse lines, although little
William Barksted.) attention might be paid to such matters in The following is the parallel passage in the a prompter's book. The peculiar structure ! comedy :
“So play the foolish throngs with one that swoons ; “Look, the unfolding star calls up the Come all to help him, and so stop the air shepherd.” In the midst of the most busiBy which he should revive.”
ness-like and familiar directions occur these Malone says of this coincidence, “That eight words of the highest poetry. By a Measure for Measure' was written before touch almost magical Shakspere takes us in 1607 may be fairly concluded from the fol an instant out of that dark prison, where we lowing passage in a poem published in that have been surrounded with crime and sufferyear, which we have good ground to believe ing, to make us see the morning star bright was copied from a similar thought in this
over the hills, and hear the tinkle of the play, as the author, at the end of his piece, sheep-bell in the folds, and picture the shepprofesses a personal regard for Shakspeare, herd bidding the flock go forth to pasture, and highly praises his 'Venus and Adonis.*"* before the sun has lighted up the dewy The other arguments of Malone as to the lawns. In the same way, throughout this date of this play, which he assigns to 1603, very extraordinary drama, in which the have reference to public circumstances. Chal- whole world is represented as one great mers contends for the date of 1604.
prison-house, full of passion, and ignorance, Conjectures such as these are too often and sorrow, we have glimpses every now and laborious trifling. But, for once, they are then of something beyond, where there shall pretty nearly borne out by incontrovertible be no alternations of mildness and severity, testimony. The perseverance of Mr. Peter but a condition of equal justice, serene as Cunningham has been rewarded by discover the valley under the unfolding star,” and ing in the Audit Office certain passages in about to rejoice in the dayspring. the original Office Books of the Masters and The little passage which we have quoted Yeomen of the Revels, which fix the date of is one amongst the numberless poetical gems the representation at Court of some of Shak- which are scattered up and down this comedy spere's plays. The Office Book shows that with a profusion such as only belongs to one Measure for Measure' was presented at poet. It has been said of Shakspere, “He Court by the King's Players in 1604.
is the text for the moralist and the philoThe ‘Promos and Cassandra' of George sopher. His bright wit is cut out into Whetstone, printed in 1578, but not acted, little stars ;' his solid masses of knowledge was, there can be no doubt, the foundation are meted out in morsels and proverbs; and, upon which Shakspere built his 'Measure thus distributed, there is scarcely a corner for Measure.' Whetstone tells us in a sub- which he does not illuminate, or a cottage sequent work that he constructed his play which he does not enrich." * This is by no upon a novel of Giraldi Cinthio, of which he means his highest praise, and his ' Beauties' gives us a translation; observing, “This his- give a very imperfect idea of his attributes ; tory, for rareness thereof, is livelily set out but certainly no other man ever wrote single in a comedy by the reporter of the work, sentences that to such an extent have now but yet never presented upon stage.”+ become mixed up with the habits of thought
The performance of Whetstone, as might of millions of human beings. This play be expected in a drama of that date, is feeble appears to us especially glittering with these and monotonous, not informed with any real
“little stars.” We cannot open a scene in dramatic power, drawling or bombastic in which we do not encounter some passage its tragic parts, extravagant in its comic. It that has set us thinking at some moment of is scarcely necessary to offer to our readers our lives. Of such distinct passages, which any parallel examples of the modes in which the memory never parts from, the following Whetstone and Shakspere have treated the will be recognised by all as familiar friends:same incidents.
“Heaven doth with us as we with torches do;
* *Retrospective Review,' vol. vii. p. 381.
“ This play,
Did not go forth of us, 't were all alike Barnardine, one of the most extraordinary As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely of Shakspere's creations, will produce little touch'd
beyond disgust in the casual reader. But But to fine issues."
these have, nevertheless, not crept into this “Reason thus with life : drama by accident-certainly not from the If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing
desire “ to make the unskilful laugh.” PerThat none but fools would keep: a breath haps the effect of their introduction, coupled thou art,
with the general subject of the dramatic (Servile to all the skiey influences)
action, is to render the entire comedy not That dost this habitation, where thou keep’st, pleasurable. Coleridge says, Hourly afflict.”
which is Shakspeare's throughout, is to me “ Merciful heaven !
the most painful—say, rather, the only painThou rather, with thy sharp and sulphurous ful—part of his genuine works.” This is a bolt,
strong opinion ; and, upon the whole, a just Splitt'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak, one. But it requires explanation. Than the soft myrtle : But man, proud man ! The general outline of the story upon Dress'd in a little brief authority;
which · Measure for Measure' is founded is Most ignorant of what he's most assured, presented to us in such different forms, and His glassy essence,-like an angry ape, with reference to such distinct times and Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven, persons, that, whether historically true or As make the angels weep.”
not, we can have no doubt of its universal “The sense of death is most in apprehension;
interest. It is told of an officer of Charles And the poor beetle, that we tread upon,
the Bold, Duke of Burgundy ; of Oliver le In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great
Diable, the wicked favourite of Louis XI. ; As when a giant dies.”
of Colonel Kirke, in our own country; of a
captain of the Duke of Ferrara. In all these We select these, contrary to our usual cases an unhappy woman sacrifices her own practice of not separating the parts from honour for the promised safety of one she the whole, for the purpose of pointing out loves ; and in all, with the exception of the that there is something deeper in them than case of Colonel Kirke, the abuser of authority the power of expressing a moral observation is punished with death. Whatever interest strikingly and poetically. They are imbued may attach to the narrative of such an with the writer's philosophy. They form a event, it is manifest that the dramatic conpart of the system upon which the play is duct of such a story is full of difficulty, written. But, opposed to passages like these, especially in a scrupulous age. But the there are many single sentences scattered public opinion, which, in this particular, through this drama which, so far from dwell-would operate upon a dramatist in our own ing on with pleasure, we hurry past—which day, would not affect a writer for the stage we like not to look upon again—which appear in the times of Elizabeth and James ; and, to be mere grossnesses. They are, never in point of fact, plots far more offensive theless, an integral portion of the drama became the subject of very popular dramas they also form part of the system upon long after the times of Shakspere. It apwhich the play is written. What is true of pears to us that, adopting such a subject in single passages is true of single scenes. its general bearings, he has managed it with Those between Isabella and Angelo, and uncommon adroitness by his deviations from Isabella and Claudio, are unsurpassed in the the accustomed story. By introducing a Shaksperean drama, for force, and beauty, contrivance by which the heroine is not and the delicate management of a difficult sacrificed, he preserves our respect for her, subject. But there are other scenes which which would be involuntarily lost if she fell, appear simply revolting, such as those in even though against her own will; and by which the Clown is conspicuous; and even this management he is also enabled to spare