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DATE AND ORIGINAL TITLE OF THE COMEDY-ITS MIXTURE

OF STYLES, CHARACTERISTICS, ETC.
IN ,

given by Meares, in his “Wit's Treasury,” published in that year, is found
the title of “Love's Labour Won.” “For Shakespeare's excellence in
comedy, (says Meares,) witness his Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his
Love labours lost, his Love labours wonne, his Midsummer night dreame,
and his Merchant of Venice.”

It is exceedingly improbable that this should have been the title of a popular play of Shakespeare's, well known in its day, and since entirely lost. Every drama ascribed to him was eagerly gathered up and printed in the collections of his plays, as speedily as the previous vested rights of

theatres or publishers in them would permit: his genuine and undoubted works, in the folio of Heminge & Condell, (1623;) others, either wholly spurious, or at most his only in some small part, by addition or alteration, were published in pamphlets, with his name or initials, during his life, and seven of them collected and embodied with his unquestioned works, by the editors of the two later folios, (1664, and 1685.)

Had there then been known to have existed a comedy under the title of “ Love's Labour Won,” distinct from any of those known under other names, it would certainly have either found its way, in an authentic shape, from the prompter's books to the press, or else we should have had a spurious counterfeit assuming the title ; unless indeed the fact of its existence and loss had been universally known; in which latter case we should have had editors, critics, and contemporary poets, acknowledging the loss, and mourning for its disappearance as for a “lost Pleiad” from the heaven of invention. Thus the inference is irresistible, that “ Love's Labour Won” could only have been the original or the popular title of some comedy since known under another name, or at least the title of some youthful production, in its chrysalis state, which we now possess in a more mature form. The title of course cannot apply to any one of the others in Meares's list, nor can it apply to others of which we are enabled to trace the dates and original titles, by means of the earliest editions, and the mention made of them by contemporary writers. But the plot of All's Well That Ends Well turns entirely on the single interest of Helena’s labours of despised love, at last triumphing over the impediments of humble birth and station, and winning its almost hopeless object. There is no other of its author's dramas so devoted as this to the single subject of unwavering love overcoming scorn and difficulty, in the persevering confidence that none

ever strove

To show her merit, that did miss her love. There are, indeed, several allusions in this play to its present title, but these may be additions contemporary with the change of name, or rather they may indicate that, like Twelfth-Night, or What You Will, this play also, at first, bore the double title of “ Love's Labour Won, or All Well that Ends Well;" which would correspond precisely with the lines at the conclusion :

The king's a beggar, now the play is done.

All is well ended, if this suit be won. In itself, the solution of this question is of little importance, but the main interest of the inquiry, as to the identity of the comedies bearing these distinct titles, is the light that it throws upon the literary and intellectual history and character of All's Well that Ends Well, and its author, by proving it to be in some parts a youthful work, afterwards revised; thus confirming the strong probabilities afforded by the variety and contrast of its style and manner, in different passages, that it was written at distant periods of the author's career, and contains examples of his most distinct manners in composition. If this comedy, under another title, was produced not very long after the first representation of Love's Labour's Lost, and as a sort of counterpart to it, painting the energy inspired by love, as the other play depicted “ love in idleness,” and ending in nothing; then, since we find All's Well That Ends Well, in its present form, printed for the first time many years after, it appears highly probable that, as Love's Labour's Lost was “newly corrected and augmented” in 1597, (as we learn it was by the title-page of the first edition,) the author grafted upon his juvenile rhymed comedy many passages, in which we recognise the master-hand that had just written the Merchant of Venice; so too its counterpart, “ Love's Labour Won," passed through a similar revision, at some later period.

The presumption resulting from these circumstances agrees with the evidence afforded by the style and versifi. cation. Much of the graver dialogue, especially in the first two acts, reminds the reader, in taste of coinposition, in rhythm, and in a certain quaintness of expression, of the Two GENTLEMEN OF Verona. The comic part is spirited and laugh-provoking, yet it consists wholly in the exposure of a braggart coxcomb-one of the most familiar comic personages of the stage, and quite within the scope of a boyish artist's knowledge of life and power of satirical delineation. On the other hand, there breaks forth everywhere, and in many scenes entirely predominates, a grave moral thoughtfulness, expressed in a solemn, reflective tone, and sometimes in a sententious brevity

a

of phrase and harshness of rhythm, which seems to me to stamp many passages as belonging to the epoch of MEASURE FOR MEASURE, or of LEAR. We miss, too, the gay and fanciful imagery which shows itself continually, alike amidst the passion and the moralizing of the previous comedies.

This sterner and more meditative cast is so predominant, that the whole play may be remarked as being comparatively of a gray and sober hue, uncoloured by those rainbow tints of fancy, or fiercely bright flashes of passion, that give such diversity of splendour to many other dramas. The reason of this cannot be that which Schlegel assigns, that “the glorious colours of fancy could not have been introduced into such a subject;" for it is not easy to find any reason, in the subject itself, why Helena's subdued, yet cherished and absorbing passion, might not have been clothed by Shakespeare in thoughts and words as tender as those of Imogen, as intense with passionate beauty as those of Juliet. The only intelligible reason is, that such was not the prevailing mood of the author's mind at the time, nor congruous with the main objects on which he had fixed his attention—that the play was thrown into its present shape, and assumed its present expression, at a time when the author's moral and reflective faculty was more active and engrossing than his poetic fancy, or his dramatic imitative power.

The contrast of two different moods of thought and mamers of expression, here mixed in the same piece, must be evident to all who have made the shades and gradations of Shakespeare's varying and progressive taste and mind at all a subject of study. At any rate, the opinion just expressed was formed before the writer learned, from Mr. Collier's information, that “it was the opinion of Coleridge, an opinion which he first delivered in 1813, and again in 1818, though it is not found in his · Literary Remains,' that All's Well that Ends Well, as it has come down to us, was written at two different, and rather distant periods of the Poet's life. He pointed out very clearly two distinct styles, not only of thought, but of expression; and Professor Tieck, at a later date, adopted and enforced the same belief." Whether Coleridge regarded the additions as belonging to the same period of the author's manner, to which it has been here assigned, I am unable to say. Tieck appears to ascribe to an earlier period, some of the darker and thought-burdened passages which I should assign to that later period, when the Poet's mind brooded habitually, in pity or in anger, over man's vices and misery. Still the contrast of diction and thought struck the acute German as much as it must do the student of his own native language.

Nevertheless, the changes of a great writer's habits of thought and choice of expression, however wide apart those changes may be, are yet, like the workings of other minds, subject to the revival of old associations and former mental habits, breaking in upon and mixing with those of after acquisition. To this principle I must refer some few passages of exceeding beauty, which may possibly have been in the original sketch, but which I rather infer, from the diction and versification, to belong to the revision, though not in its general taste and spirit. Such are those lines of intense beauty and feeling, when Helena breathes forth her hopeless passion :

It were all one,
That I should love a bright particular star,

And think to wed it,and pleases herself in her fond imagination,

to sit and draw
His arched brows, his hawking eye,

his curls,

In our heart's table, etc. And again the passage in the third act, in which she pours forth her sorrows and takes upon herself the guilt of her husband's desertion, where the very exaggeration of imagery and language speak the truth of nature and passion.

Most readers would wish that this high empassioned poetry of sentiment, had been breathed throughout all that Helena utters; and the plot itself would authorize and might have prompted dialogue and soliloquy, as fervid and fanciful as any that even Juliet had uttered.

But this did not happen to accord with the author's temper and disposition at the time of his maturer labours upon this theme, nor with the object he had proposed to his own mind in the composition.

The purely dramatic spirit, the identification of the writer's own feelings with those of the personages and scenes he exhibits, had here given place to a moralizing thoughtfulness, so that the Poet himself became the expounder and commentator of the truths involved in his dramatic fable, instead of leaving the reader to extract them for him. self, from the vivid representation of human nature and passion.

In this play, he, throughout the whole, labours to impress on the audience a great and simple truth, too much forgotten at all times in the pride of life, but which in his own age and nation of strongly marked distinction and pre. judices of birth and rank, must have been startling from its novelty and boldness. It is the great truth lying at the foundation of all real and practical social freedom, that moral and intellectual worth is the only solid ground of distinction between man and man. The graver part of his plot and dialogue is one continued rebuke of the harshness, injustice, and want of human sympathy of the rich and powerful toward the humble and dependant. As Shakespeare, in his historical and more political dramas, has delineated the caprices of the mob as faithfully as the vices and crimes of the great, Coleridge and other critics have thence deduced the theory that he was in opinion "a philosophical aristocrat," who reverenced rank and power, and regarded the vulgar with good-natured contempt; a theory which is not only incongruous with the sympathy he everywhere expresses for man as man, and his indignant rebukes of the “superfluous and lust-dieted man—that will not see because he cannot feel ;" but is directly contradicted in every scene of this comedy,

Burns himself, in an age of revolutions, did not pour forth his own spirit of independence more freely in his animating strain of,

The rank is but the guinea stamp,

The man's the goud for a' that;

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