Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

you word,

Does it produce tranquillity? All beyond is

And that which should accompany old age, desperation

As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,

I must not look to have; but, in their stead, Macb. Saw you the weird sisters ?

Curses not loud, but deep, mouth-honour, Len.

No, my lord.

Macb. Came they not by you?
No, indeed, my lord.

Which the poor heart would fain deny, and

dare not.” Macb. Infected be the air whereon they ride;

This passage, and the subsequent one of And damn'd all those that trust them ! I did “ To-morrow, and to-morrow, and lo-morrow, hear

Creeps in this petty space from day to day, The galloping of horse: Who was 't came by? To the last syllable of recorded time; Len. 'T is two or three, my lord, that bring And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death,”— Macduff is filed to England.

tell us of something higher and better in his Macb.

Fled to England? character than the assassin and the usurper. Len. Ay, my good lord.

He was the victim of “the equivocation of Macb. Time, thou anticipat'st my dread

the fiend ;” and he has paid a fearful penalty exploits:

for his belief. The final avenging is a comThe flighty purpose never is o’ertook,

passionate one, for he dies a warrior's Unless the deed go with it: From this mo

death :ment,

“ I will not yield, The very firstlings of my heart shall be The firstlings of my hand. And even now,

To kiss the ground before young Malcolm's

feet, To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought

And to be baited with the rabble's curse. and done: The castle of Macduff I will surprise;

Though Birnam wood be come to Dunsinane,

And thou oppos’d, being of no woman born, Seize upon Fife; give to the edge o' the

Yet I will try the last: Before my body sword His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls

I throw my warlike shield.” That trace him in his line."

The principle which we have thus so imThe retribution which falls upon Lady

perfectly attempted to exhibit, as the leading

characteristic of this glorious tragedy, is, Macbeth is precisely that which is fitted to her guilt. The powerful will is subjected to without doubt, that which constitutes the the domination of her own imperfect senses.

essential difference between a work of the We cannot dwell upon her terrible punish- highest genius and a work of mediocrity. ment. There can be nothing beyond the

Without power—by which we here especially mean the ability to produce strong excite

ment by the display of scenes of horror-no “Here's the smell of the blood still: all the poet of the highest order was ever made ; perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little

but this alone does not make such a poet. hand.”

If he is called upon to present such scenes, The vengeance falls more gently on Macbeth; they must, even in their most striking forms, for he is in activity; he is still confident in be associated with the beautiful. The preprophetic securities. The contemplative eminence of his art in this particular can melancholy which, however, occasionally alone prevent them affecting the imagination comes over him in the last struggle is still beyond the limits of pleasurable emotion. true to the poetry of his character: To keep within these limits, and yet to

“Seyton !-I am sick at heart. preserve all the energy which results from When I behold—Seyton, I say !—This push the power of dealing with the terrible apart Will cheer me ever, or dis-seat me now. from the beautiful, belongs to few that the I have liv'd long enough: my way of life

world has seen : to Shakspere it belongs Is fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf: surpassingly.

agony of




not one,

WE have no edition of the Winter's Tale' so home an allusion on any other ground than prior to that of the folio of 1623; nor was it compliment. The unreasonable jealousy of entered

upon the registers of the Stationers' Leontes, and his violent conduct in consequence, Company previous to the entry by the pro form a true portrait of Henry VIII., who geneprietors of the folio. The original text, rally made the law the engine of his boisterous which is divided into acts and scenes, is passions. Not only the general plan of the remarkably correct.

story is most applicable, but several passages

are so marked that they touch the real history Chalmers has assigned the 'Winter's Tale' to 1601. The play contains this passage:

nearer than the fable. Hermione on her trial,

says, “ If I could find example

'For honour, Of thousands that had struck anointed kings 'T is a derivative from me to mine, And flourish'd after, I'd not do't: but since

And only that I stand for.' Nor brass, nor stone, nor parchment, bears

This seems to be taken from the very letter of Let villainy itself forswear 't.”

Anne Boleyn to the king before her execution,

where she pleads for the infant princess his “ These lines," says Chalmers,

were called

daughter. Mamillius, the young prince, an forth by the occasion of the conspiracy of unnecessary character, dies in his infancy; but Essex.” “No,” says Malone, “these lines it confirms the allusion, as Queen Anne, before could never have been intended for the ear Elizabeth, bore a still-born son. But the most of her who had deprived the Queen of Scots striking passage, and which had nothing to do of her life. To the son of Mary they could not in the tragedy but as it pictured Elizabeth, is but have been agreeable.” Upon this ground where Paulina, describing the new-born princess, he assigned the comedy to 1604. There is a and her likeness to her father, says, 'She has the third critic, of much higher acuteness than very trick of his frown.' There is one sentence, the greater number of those who have given indeed, so applicable both to Elizabeth and her us speculations on the chronology of Shak- father, that I should suspect the poet inserted it spere's plays,—we mean Horace Walpole, after her death. Paulina, speaking of the child, whose conjecture is so ingenious and amusing

tells the king that we copy it without abridgment:“ The Winter's Tale' may be ranked among

And might we lay the old proverb to your the historic plays of Shakspere, though not one

charge, of his numerous critics and commentators have

So like you, 't is the worse.' discovered the drift of it. It was certainly The 'Winter's Tale' was therefore in reality a intended in compliment to Queen Elizabeth) Second Part of ‘Henry VIII.”” as an indirect apology for her mother, Anne Boleyn. The address of the poet appears no

Plausible as this may appear, the conjecture where to more advantage. The subject was too falls to the ground when we consider that delicate to be exhibited on the stage without a Shakspere adopted all that part of the plot veil; and it was too recent, and touched the of this comedy which relates to the “unqueen too nearly, for the bard to have ventured reasonable jealousy of Leontes” from a novel

"T is yours:

[ocr errors]


of which we have an edition as early as 1588. | lost, the king should die without issue; for the Robert Greene, the auther of " Pandosto,' child was carried into Bohemia, and there laid could scarcely have intended his story as in a forest, and brought up by a shepherd. And “a compliment to Queen Elizabeth” and a the King of Bohemia’s son married that wench, “true portrait of Henry VIII.,” for he makes and how they fled into Sicilia to Leontes; and the jealous king of his novel terminate his

the shepherd having showed the letter to the career with suicide. In truth, as we have nobleman whom Leontes sent, it was that child, sometimes inferred, questions such as this and by the jewels found about her she was

known to be Leontes' daughter, and was then are very pretty conundrums, and worthy to

sixteen years old. be cherished as the amusement of elderly

“Remember, also, the rogue that came in all gentlemen who have outlived their relish for tattered, like Coll Pipin, and how he feigned early sports, and leave to others who are less

him sick and to have been robbed of all he had, careful of their dignity to

and how he cozened the poor man of all his “ Play at push-pin with the boys." money, and after came to the sheep-shear with a

pedlar's pack, and there cozened them again of Beyond this they are for the most part all their money. And how he changed apparel worthless.

with the King of Bohemia's son, and then how In the absence of any satisfactory internal | he turned courtier, &c. evidence of the date of this comedy, beyond

“ Beware of trusting feigned beggars or that furnished by the general character of fawning fellows.” the language and versification, it was at

The novel of Robert Greene, called 'Panlength pointed out by Malone that an entry dosto,' and 'The History of Dorastus and in the office-book of Sir Henry Herbert, Fawnia,' which Shakspere undoubtedly folMaster of the Revels in 1623, mentions"

lowed, with very few important deviations, old play called Winter's Tale, formerly in the construction of the plot of his “Winter's allowed of by Sir George Bucke and likewise Tale,' is a small book, occupying fifty-nine by me.' Sir George Bucke first exercised pages in the reprint, with an Introductory the office of Master of the Revels in 1610. Notice by Mr. Colliert. It was a work of The play, therefore, could not have been extraordinary popularity, there being fourteen earlier than this year; and Mr. Collier has editions known to exist. Of the nature of produced conclusive evidence that it was Shakspere's obligations to this work, Mr. acted in 1611. We have again to refer to Collier thus justly speaks :

a book of plays, and notes thereof, for common policy” kept by Dr. Symon Forman,

“Robert Greene was a man who possessed all and discovered some few years ago in the

the advantages of education: he was a graduate Bodleian Library. Forman saw the Winter's of both Universities—he was skilled in ancient Tale’ acted on the 15th of May, 1611, at learning and in modern languages—he had, Shakspere's theatre, the Globe. It was most besides, a prolific imagination, à lively and probably then a new play; for he is very exceeded; yet, let any person well acquainted

elegant fancy, and a grace of expression rarely minute in his description of the plot.

with the Winter's Tale' read the novel of “Observe there how Leontes, King of Sicilia, / 'Pandosto,' upon which it was founded, and he was overcome with jealousy of his wife with the will be struck at once with the vast pre-eminence King of Bohemia, his friend, that came to see of Shakespeare, and with the admirable manner and how he contrived his death, and would

in which he has converted materials supplied by have had his cupbearer to have poisoned him, another to his own use. The bare outline of who gave the King of Bohemia warning thereof, the story (with the exception of Shakespeare's and fled with him to Bohemia.

miraculous conclusion) is nearly the same in “Remember, also, how he sent to the oracle of both; but this is all they have in common, and Apollo, and the answer of Apollo that she was Shakespeare may be said to have scarcely guiltless, and that the king was jealous, &c., and

* New Particulars,' p. 20. how, except the child was found again that was

+ Shakespeare's Library, Part I.


adopted a single hint for his descriptions, or gentleness. The instant the idea enters the a line for his dialogue; while in point of passion mind of Leontes the passion is at its height:and sentiment Greene is cold, formal, and

“I have tremor cordis on me:—my heart artificial—the very opposite of everything in

dances.” Skakespeare."

Very different is the jealous king of Greene:Without wearying the reader with any

“These and such-like doubtful thoughts, a very extensive comparisons of the novel and long time smothering in his stomach, began at the drama, we shall run through the pro- lasť to kindle in his mind a secret mistrust, duction of Greene, to which our great poet

which, increased by suspicion, grew at last to a has incidentally imparted a real interest.

flaming jealousy that so tormented him as he “In the country of Bohemia,” says the could take no rest.” novel,“there reigned a king called Pandosto.”

Coleridge has described the jealousy of LeThe 'Leontes' of Shakspere is the ‘Pandosto'

ontes with incomparable truth of analysis :of Greene. The Polixenes of the play is Egistus in the novel :

“The idea of this delightful drama is a genuine

jealousy of disposition, and it should be imme“It so happened that Egistus, King of Sicilia, diately followed by the perusal of Othello,' who in his youth had been brought up with which is the direct contrast of it in every Pandosto, desirous to show that neither tract of particular. For jealousy is a vice of the mind, time nor distance of place could diminish their à culpable tendency of the temper, having former friendship, provided a navy of ships, and certain well-known and well-defined effects and sailed into Bohemia to visit his old friend and concomitants, all of which are visible in Leontes, companion.”

and, I boldly say, not one of which marks its

presence in Othello;—such as, first, an excitHere, then, we have the scene of the action

ability by the most inadequate causes, and an reversed. The jealous king is of Bohemia, eagerness to snatch at proofs; secondly, a gross-his injured friend of Sicilia. But the ness of conception, and a disposition to degrade visitor sails into Bohemia. The wife of Pan the object of the passion by sensual fancies and dosto is Bellaria; and they have a young son images; thirdly, a sense of shame of his own called Garinter. Pandosto becomes jealous, feelings exhibited in a solitary moodiness of slowly, and by degrees; and there is at least humour, and yet, from the violence of the passion, some want of caution in the queen to justify

forced to utter itself, and therefore catching it:

occasions to ease the mind by ambiguities,

equivoques, by talking to those who cannot, and Bellaria noting in Egistus a princely and

who are known not to be able to understand bountiful mind, adorned with sundry and ex what is said to them,-in short, by soliloquy in cellent qualities, and Egistus finding in her a

the form of dialogue, and hence a confused, virtuous and courteous disposition, there grew broken, and fragmentary manner; fourthly, a such a secret uniting of their affections, that the

dread of vulgar ridicule, as distinct from a high one could not well be without the company of sense of honour, or a mistaken sense of duty; the other.”

and lastly, and immediately consequent on this, The great author of 'Othello' would not

a spirit of selfish vindictiveness." deal with jealousy after this fashion. He

The action of the novel and that of the had already produced that immortal portrait

drama continue in a pretty equal course.

Pandosto tampers with his cupbearer, Franion, Of one, not easily jealous, but, being wrought, to poison Egistus; and the cupbearer, terriPerplex'd in the extreme.”

fied at the fearful commission, reveals the

design to the object of his master's hatred. He had now to exhibit the distractions of a Eventually they escape together mind to which jealousy was native; to depict the terrible access of passion, uprooting in

“ Egistus, fearing that delay might breed a moment all deliberation, all reason, all

* Literary Remains,' vol. ii.



danger, and willing that the grass should not be matter, there was word brought him that his cut from under his feet, taking bag and baggage, young son Garinter was suddenly dead, which by the help of Franion conveyed himself and news so soon as Bellaria heard, surcharged before his men out at a postern gate of the city, so with extreme joy and now suppressed with heavy secretly and speedily, that without any suspicion sorrow, her vital spirits were so stopped that they got to the sea-shore; where, with many a she fell down presently dead, and could never bitter curse taking their leave of Bohemia, they be revived." went aboard."

Greene mentions only the existence and Bellaria is committed to prison where she the death of the king's son. The dramatic gives birth to a daughter. The guard exhibition of Mamillius by Shakspere is “ carried the child to the king, who, quite devoid amongst the most charming of his sketches. of pity, commanded that without delay it should The affection of the father for his boy in the be put in the boat, having neither sail nor

midst of his distraction, and the tenderness rudder to guide it, and so to be carried into the of the poor child, to whom his father's midst of the sea, and there left to the wind and ravings are unintelligiblewave as the destinies please to appoint.”

“I am like you, they say,”— The queen appeals to the oracle of Apollo;

are touches of nature such as only one man and certain lords are sent to Delphos, where has produced. How must he have studied they receive this decree :

the inmost character of childhood to have SUSPICION IS NO PROOF: JEALOUSY IS AN UN-given us the delicious little scene of the EQUAL JUDGE:


Her. What wisdom stirs amongst you? HIS BABE INNOCENT; AND THE

Come, sir, now,

am for you again : Pray you, sit by us,

And tell 's a tale. On their return, upon an appointed day, the Mam. Merry, or sad, shall 't be? queen was “brought in before the judgment Her. As merry as you will. seat.” Shakspere has followed a part of the Мат.

A sad tale's best tragical ending of this scene; but he pre for winter : serves his injured Hermione, to be reunited I have one of sprites and goblins. to her daughter after years of solitude and Her. Let's have that, good sir. suffering.

Come on, sit down :-Come on, and do your

best “Bellaria had no sooner said but the king

To fright me with your sprites : you're commanded that one of his dukes should read

powerful at it. the contents of the scroll, which, after the Mam. There was a man,commons had heard, they gave a great shout,

Her. Nay, come, sit down : then on. rejoicing and clapping their hands that the

Mam. Dwelt by a churchyard ;--- I will tell queen was clear of that false accusation. But

it softly; the king, whose conscience was a witness against Yon crickets shall not hear it. him of his witless fury and false suspected Her.

Come on then, jealousy, was so ashamed of his rash folly that

And give't me in mine ear." he entreated his nobles to persuade Bellaria to forgive and forget these injuries; promising not It requires the subsequent charm of a Perdita only to show himself a loyal and loving husband, to put that poor boy out of our thoughts. but also to reconcile himself to gistus and

The story of the preservation of the deserted Franion; revealing then before them all the infant is prettily told in the novel :cause of their secret flight, and how treacherously he thought to have practised his death, if the "It fortuned a poor mercenary shepherd that good mind of his cupbearer had not prevented dwelt in Sicilia, who got his living by other his purpose. As thus he was relating the whole men's flocks, missed one of his sheep, and,

« AnteriorContinuar »