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described as assuming an air of consequence as the Queen's son in a council of state, and with all the absurdity of his person and manners, is not without shrewdness in his observations. So true is it that folly is as often owing to a want of proper sentiments as to a want of understanding ! The exclamation of the ancient critick, Oh Menander and Nature, which of you copied from the other ! would not be misapplied to Shakspeare.
The other characters in this play are represented with great truth and accuracy, and as it happens in most of the author's works, there is not only the utmost keeping in each separate character; but in the casting of the different parts, and their relation to one another, there is an affinity and harmony, like what we may observe in the gradations of colour in a picture. The striking and powerful contrasts in which Shakspeare abounds could not escape observation ; but the use he makes of the principle of analogy to reconcile the greatest diversities of character and to maintain a continuity of feeling throughout, has not been sufficiently attended to. In CYMBELINE, for instance, the principal interest arises out of the unalterable fidelity of Imogen to her husband under the most trying circumstances. Now the other parts of the picture are filled up with subordinate examples of the same feeling, variously modified by different situations, and applied to the purposes of virtue or vice. The plot is aided by the amorous importunities of Cloten, hy the tragical determination of Iachimo to conceal the defeat of his project by a daring imposture : the faithful attachment of Pisapio to his mistress
is an affecting accompaniment to the whole; the obstinate adherence to his purpose in Bellarius, who keeps the fate of the young princes so long a secret in resentment for the ungrateful return to his former services, the incorrigible wickedness of the Queen, and even the blind uxorious confidence of Cymbeline, are all so many lines of the same story, tending to the same point. The effect of this coincidence is rather felt than observed ; and as the impression exists. unconsciously in the mind of the reader, so it probably arose in the same manner in the mind of the author, not from design, but from the force of natural association, a particular train of feeling suggesting different inflections of the same predominant principle, melting into, and strengthening one another, like chords in musick.
The characters of Bellarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus, and the romantick scenes in which they appear, are a fine relief to the intrigues and artificial refinements of the court from which they are banished. Nothing can surpass the wildness and simplicity of the descriptions of the mountain life they lead. They follow the business of huntsmen, not of shepherils; and this is in keeping with the spirit of adventure and uncertainty in the rest of the story, and with the scenes in which they are afterwards called on to act. How admirably the youthful fire and impatience to emerge from their obscurity in the young princes is opposed to the cooler calculations and prudent resignation of their more experienced counsellor ! How well the disadvantages of
knowledge and of ignorance, of solitude and society, are placed against each other!
“Guiderius. Out of your proof you speak : we poor unfledg'd
Arviragus. What should we speak of
The answer of Bellarius to this expostulation is hardly satisfactory; for nothing can be an answer to hope, or the passion of the mind for unknown good, but experience. The forest of Arden, in As you like it, can alone compare with the mountain scenes in CYMBELINE: yet how different the contemplative quiet of the one from the enterprising boldness and precarious mode of subsistence in the other ! Shakspeare not only lets us into the minds of his characters, but gives a tone and colour to the scenes he describes from the feelings of their imaginary inhabitants. He at the same time preserves the utmost
propriety of action and passion, and gives all their local accompaniments. If he was equal to the greatest things, he was not above an attention to the smallest. Thus the gallant sportsmen in CYMBELINE have to encounter the abrupt declivities of hill and valley: Touchstone and Audrey jog along a level path. The deer in CYMBELI NE are only regarded as objects of prey, “The game's a-foot,” &c.with Jaques they are fine subjects to moralize upon at leisure, “ under the shade of melancholy boughs.”
We cannot take leave of this play, which is a favourite with us, without noticing some occasional touches of natural piety and morality. allude here to the opening of the scene in which Bellarius instructs the young princes to pay their orisons to heaven :
-“ See, Boys ! this gate
Guiderius. Hail, Heav'n !
What a grace and unaffected spirit of piety breathes in this passage ! In like manner, one of the brothers says to the other, when about to perform the funeral rites to Fidele,
“ Nay, Cadwall, we must lay his head to the east ;
Shakspeare's morality is introduced in the same simple, unobtrusive manner. Imogen will not let
her companions stay away from the chase to attend her when sick, and gives her reason for it
“ Stick to your journal course; the breach of custom
When the Queen attempts to disguise her motives for procuring the poison from Cornelius, by saying she means to try its effects on “ creatures not worth the hanging,” his answer conveys at once a tacit reproof of her hypocrisy, and a useful lesson of humanity
“ Your Highness