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events of Grecian history. Now, in the plural number, and HippShakespeare is not amenable to this charge; for he al- ing; but ludes to only one event in that history, namely, to the fallen asle marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta; and, as to the in- seemingly troduction of fairies, I am not aware that he makes any that all wi of the Athenian personages believe in their existence, tween Th though they are subject to their influence. Let us be but slende candid on the subject. If there were fairies in modern probable Europe, which no rational believer in fairy tales will their amo deny, why should those fine creatures not have existed comes the previously in Greece, although the poor, blind, heathen i of fairies Greeks, on whom the gospel of Gothic mythology had
posing into not yet dawned, had no conception of them? If The- are an odd seus and Hippolyta had talked believingly about the dapper elves, there would have been some room for “Very critical complaint; but otherwise the fairies have as
speare for good a right to be in Greece, in the days of Theseus, as
actors, du to play their pranks any where else, or at any other time.
I dare sa * There are few plays (says the same critic) which Greek an consist of such incongruous materials as a MIDSUMMERright, and Night's DREAM. It comprises four histories—that of classical c Theseus and Hippolyta, that of the four Athenian hundred y Lovers, that of the Actors, and that of the Fairies; and roved abo the link of connection between them is exceedingly lees of wi slender. In answer to this, I say that the plot contains time of TL nothing (about any of the four parties concerned) ap- the weave proaching to the pretension of a history. Of Theseus companies
tals can no
events of Grecian history. Now, in the plural number, and Hippolyta
, my crtie mais tes bras Shakespeare is not amenable to this charge; for he al. ing; bat when he wants to lades to only one event in that history, namely, to the fallen asleep after the betingen i marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta; and, as to the in- seemingly secure, and it from man troduction of fairies, I am not aware that he makes any that all will end well in telui d' of the Athenian personages believe in their existence, tween Thesew and bi faz suami though they are subject to their influence. Let us be but slender. It is, on the other sit candid on the subject. If there were fairies in modern probable for a new?g-betul pe D Europe, which no rational believer in fairy tales will their amorons lieges terug ter were deny, why should those fine creatures not have existed comes the question
, what stes mes previously in Greece, although the poor, blind, heathen of fairies have with bamun hengeon Greeks, on whom the gospel of Gothic mythology had posing interrogation; aid I mund got yet dawned, had no conception of them? If The are an odd sort of beings when you ko and Hippolyta had talked believingly about the tals can never be et down but u op dapper elves, there would have been some room for " Very soon Mt. Augustise on critical complaint; bat otherwise the fairies have a speare for introducing omnes prekes good a night to be in Greece, in the days of Theseus, as actors, during the reign o' Thema 10 to play their pranks any where else, or at any other time. I dare say Shakespeare wochet is!
* There are few plays (says the same critic) which Greek antiquities; but here the learn consist of such incongruous materials as a MIDSUMMER right, and his critie to be the Nont's Dexam. It comprises four histories—that of classical city in the day of The Theseus and Hippolyta, that of the four Athenian hundred years later than his res bois Lovers, that of the Actors, and that of the Fairies; and rored about in carts, beszering bers the link of connection between them is exceedingly I lees of wine. I have litile dek slender. la answer to this, I say that the plot contains time of Thesens, there were met nothing (about any of the four parties concerned) ap- the weater, and Song the riser, at prosching to the pretension of a history. Of Theseus companies of Attica. P-T. Campos
BRINGING IN THE MAFPOLE
diction is, more than in any of his plays, and very much more than in any preceding one, abrupt, condensed, elliplical, bold in new combinations and figurative meanings, and, consequently, often obscure from the rapidity with which such figurative allusions are crowded on one another. The style throughout is, therefore, at once reflective and vehement, brief, harsh, austere, and (if the phrase may be allowed) angular, and rugged.
Some tendency to this compressed and suggestive style appears in the enlargements to Rom EO AND JULIET, which had increased upon the Poet as his mind became more teeming with thought, and his mastery of language more familiar and consequently bold. Yet in this play he suddenly rushes to the very extreme of this manner, and carries it much further than he was afterwards accustomed to do. It is the theory of Ulrici, that Shakespeare's diction became more and more compressed and obscure, and his views of life and mankind more and more gloomy, as he advanced in years. But the date of this play, and the comparison of its style with his works, shows rather that these characteristics were the result of some quick and sudden change in his habits of thought and composi Lion; that from this time to that when LEAR was written, they were carried to their greatest height, and were af. terwards softened and subdued. In MEASURE FOR MEASURE he labours from fullness of thought, like one under strong excitement, striving to pour forth his emotions in a language just acquired, and not yet familiar.
Shakespeare had also been, for some years, gradually innovating upon the accurate and careful melody to which he had originally modulated his versification, both in rhyme and heroic blank verse, and had made it more and more pliable to the freedom of dramatic dialogue. Thus was at length perfected (as I have had occasion to observe in the Remarks on Macbeth) an unrivalled vehicle of dramatic poetry, flexible to every mood of fancy. sentiment, or passion, and unequalled for its purposes in the literature of any age or nation. In this play the experiment of bold and careless deviation from the regular rhythm, cadence, and measure, is, like the freedom of diction, carried to excess. This, too, I think, corresponds to, and was suggested by, the Poet's mood of mind, and reflects the austerity of thought which would have found little agreement with a more artificial sweetness of regular melody. In this respect, too, this extreme of rugged versification predominated only during the same season of his darker and sterner power, and though he never returned to the elaborate accuracy of his youth, yet he afterwards delighted most in a grave and majestic harmony, such as Milton imitated and rivalled.
There being no other edition to compare with that in the folios, which has many certain and considerable typographical errors, the text of Measure For Measure is peculiarly doubtful, in many places, as to the precise sense or words, though we can never be at a loss for the general meaning. The bold novelties of expression, and suddenness of transition, must often leave the reader in doubt whether the obscurity he finds arises from style, or from some uncorrected misprint or omission.
SOURCE OF THE PLOT. The story, like that of Othello, comes originally from a novel of Cinthio, the Italian novelist and tragic author. He was a prolific relater of dark and bloody stories, which have yet such an air of reality as to give the impression that he drew his materials, like Scott, from domestic traditions, or legal records. Shakespeare had also the same plot in Whetstone's tragedy of “ Promos and Cassandra," (1578,) founded on Cinthio's novel. But he owed very little to either predecessor but the outline of the story, and some slight hints, or casual expressions. It is evident that, in such a case, a previous tragedy on the same subject instead of lessening Shakespeare's claims to originality, greatly increases them, as it imposed on him the new difficulty of avoiding many obvious images and ideas, which must arise to every writer handling the same incidents. Nor was Whetstone an author of so low a rank that he might be safely neglected in this respect, and his materials used without injustice or plagiarism. Ou the contrary, he was, though inflated and extravagant in style, and deficient in the power of interesting or exciting his readers, a writer of learning and talent. He followed Cinthio very closely, in making the sister (the w woful Cassandra" of his play, the Epitia of Cinthio, and the Isabella of Shakespeare) yield to the Governor's desires and her brother's pusillanimous sophistry—a degradation which Shakespeare has avoided by the introduction of Mariana, and the very venial artifice of Isabella, which Coleridge censures, but which is certainly, if a blemish at all, a very slight one compared with the intrinsic repulsiveness of making the heroine the wife of the guilty Governor, and the supplicant for his life. The inferior characters of Whetstone are the same only in their habits and occupations—the painting of their character is Shakespeare's own as much as that of the nobler persou. ages, and the high moral wisdom which overflows in their dialogue. Isabella, as a character, is entirely his owuj creation. Coleridge, after expressing the censure, (before quoted,) in which I cannot coincide, atones for its severity by allowing the undeniable Shakespearianisın of the other parts. “Of the counterbalancing beauties of Measure for MEASURE, I need say nothing; (he adds,) for I have already remarked that the play is Shakespeare's throughout."-(Literary Remains.)
But if any reader wishes to judge for himself of Shakespeare's direct obligation to George Whetstone, he may find large extracts in several of the editions of SHAKESPEARE, and in Skottowe's comparison of the two plays ; as it has been reprinted by Stevens.
The probability of the plot has been objected to, but certainly without any reason ; for it singularly happens that we have historical evidence of the occurrence of three or four very similar crimes, in different ages and countries. One of these is the well-known story of Col. Kirke, in the reign of James II., half a century after Shake. speare's death ; another occurred in Holland, a century before his birth, under Charles the Bold, and has lately been related froin the old chroniclers, with all their antique simplicity, by Barante, in his delightful “ Histoire des Ducs de Bourgogne." Another of these Angelo-like abuses of power is said to have taken place under one of the old Dukes of Ferrara, and this may bave been the actual foundation of Cinthio's tale. Shakespeare, whether he
was acquainted with the original or not, (as his use of the book in Othello indicates that he was,) bad the story before him, as Whetstone, a few years after the publication of his play, translated and published it himselfretaining, however, the names, and interweaving the thoughts of his own drama. It is contained in his “ Heptameron of Civil Discourses,” (1582,) and has been lately reprinted in Collier’s “Shakespeare's Library." He has also accompanied his own tragedy with an analytical argument, which will enable the reader to compare Shakespeare's management of the plot with that of his predecessor.
“ In the city of Julio, (sometime under the dominion of Corvinus, king of Hungary and Bohemia,) there was a law, that what man soever committed adultery should lose his head, and the woman offender should wear some disguised apparel during her life, to make her infamously noted. This severe law, by the favour of some merci. ful magistrate, became little regarded, until the time of Lord Promos' authority, who, convicting a young gentleman, named Andrugio, of incontinency, condemned both him and his minion to the execution of this statute. An. drugio had a very virtuous and beautiful gentlewoman to his sister, named Cassandra : Cassandra, to enlarge her brother's life, submitted an humble petition to the Lord Promos. Promos, regarding her good behaviour and fantasying her great beauty, was much delighted with the sweet order of her talk, and, doing good that evi! might come thereof, for a time he reprieved her brother; but, wicked man, turning his liking into unlawful lust, he set down the spoil of her honour ransom for her brother's life. Chaste Cassandra, abhorring both him and his suit, hy no persuasion would yield to this ransom. But, in fine, won with the importunity of her brother, (plead. ing for life,) upon these conditions she agreed to Promos-first, that he should pardon her brother, and after marry her. Promos, as fearless in promise as careless in performance, with solemn vow signed her conditions ; but, worse than any infidel, his will satisfied, he performed neither the one nor the other ; for, to keep his authority unspotted with favour, and to prevent Cassandra's clamours, he commanded the gaoler secretly to present Cassandra with her brother's head. The gaoler, with the outcries of Andrugio, abhorring Promos' lewdness, by the providence of God provided thus for his safety. He presented Cassandra with a felon's head, newly executed, who (being mangled, knew it not from her brother's, by the gaoler who was set at liberty) was so aggrieved at this treachery, that, at the point to kill herself, she spared that stroke to be avenged of Promos; and devising a way, she concluded to make her fortunes known unto the king. She (executing this resolution) was so highly favoured of the king, that forthwith he hasted to do justice on Promos; whose judgment was to marry Cassandra, to repair her erased honour; which done, for his heinous offence he should lose his head. This marriage soleninised, Cassandra, tied in the greatest bonds of affection to her husband, became an earnest suiter for his life. The king (tendering the general benefit of the commonweal before her special case, although he favoured her much) would not grant her suit. Andrugio, (disguised among the company,) sorrowing the grief of his sister, betrayed his safety and craved pardon. The king, to renown the virtues of Cassandra, pardoned both him and Promos.”
The more authentic history of the Angelo of the Netherlands is recorded by several of the old Dutch and Flemish chroniclers of the reign of Charles le Téméraire, the last of the more than royal dukes who reigned in dif. ferent rights over the several states of Flanders, Holland, and Burgundy. (See Barante's “ Histoire des Ducs de la Maison de Valois.") The Angelo was here a very brave and renowned knight, who was Governor of Flushing; and it was the wife of a state criminal, confined on a charge of sedition, who is tempted to yield up her honour on condition of receiving from the governor an order to the gaoler to deliver her husband up to her. In the meanwhile, a prior order had been sent; the husband was secretly beheaded ; and the wife received on presenting her order, a chest containing the bloody corpse. Upon the duke's visiting his principality of Zealand, she appealed to him for justice. The governor confessed his guilt, and threw himself with confidence upon the duke's mercy, relying on his former services and favour. The duke commanded him to marry the widow, and endow her formally with all his wealth. She at first shrunk with horror from the alliance, but at last consented to the ceremony, on the prayers of her family, who thought their honour involved in it. When this was done, the gov. ernor returned to the duke, and informed him that the injured person was now satisfied. “So am not I,” replied this far more rigid ruler than Shakespeare's kind-hearted, philosophical duke. He sent the guilty man to the same prison where his victim had died. A confessor was sent with him; and after the last rites of religion, without further delay, the governor was beheaded. His new wife and her friends had hurried to the prison, and arrived there only to receive the bloody trunk in the same manner that she had received the remains of her first husband. Overcome with horror, she fainted, and never recovered.
Had Shakespeare adopted this version of the story, it would have afforded him a canvass for many a scene of terrific, perhaps of too horrible truth. But this would have demanded the omission or entire degradation of Isabella's character-one so differing from every other of the many adinirable portraits he has left us of female excellence, that its loss would have been dearly purchased, even by scenes of terror or pathos vying with those of the last acts of LEAR or OTHELLO.