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of Perdita, and the high heroic thoughts and living portraitures of Hotspur, Harry of Monmouth, and a throng of great English historical names, constitute the “serious part."
This flippant dictum of the great teacher of English criticism was faintly echoed by many a minor critic, especially as to the Winter's Tale, they being shocked by the contempt of the ordinary rules of dramatic time, and confounded by apparent anachronisms and confusions of place and manners. But universal public opinion has long ago reversed the decision of the critics of the last age, and their illustrious lawgiver. The Winter's Tale, with all its imperfections, has long been a general favourite in the closet and on the stage. Hazlitt, the highest authority as to the acted drama, pronounces it to be “one of the best acting of our author's plays;" and it appears, from Mrs. Inchbald and others, to have been eminently successful on the stage, wherever it has been revived. Warburton was the first commentator of name who boldly dissented from the judgment of his predecessors; but since his time critic after critic, such as Coleridge, Hazlitt, and Campbell, have joined in expressing their admiration of the spirit and beauty of the drama, while its popularity with the mass of readers may well be inferred from the fact of the great frequency of quotations and allusions drawn from it, to be found in popular writings of all sorts.
The name of the piece gives deliberate notice from the author to his audience and his readers, that he did not design a regular drama, even of that license of construction customary on the old English stage; but that they were to expect merely a dramatized romantic tale; and, as Coleridge observes, " the play is exquisitely respondent to its title."
The unusual period of time compressed within the five acts' representation is explained and excused by the chorus of Father Time, as mainly elapsing between the third and fourth acts; so that in truth the author has here constructed a dramatic narrative in two parts, differing only in dramatic time from the First and Second Part of Henry IV., and dramas of similar construction, by allotting three acts to the first plot and two to the continuation, ivstead of arranging them into two longer pieces of five acts each.
The passion of jealousy was one that the Poet had studied under all its aspects, whether ludicrous or terribleas it shows itself in Ford or in the Moor; and he paints it with such power and truth as to indicate that he had acquired his intimate knowledge of its workings in some closer and more practical experience than the general observation of human nature, or the workings of his own sympathetic imagination. In Othello and in Posthumus he had painted men of strong affections and noble and constant natures, both driven into frenzied revenge by the vile arts of others: in the one he had shown a generous love gradually poisoned by a succession of artful insinuationsin the other the same confiding affection at once overthrown by apparently irresistible evidence; he had varied the fortunes of the heroes as well as their characters, and those of their wronged wives; and ended the story of one with the repentance of despair and death, and that of the other with the penitence of sorrow and forgiveness. Still he had not exhausted his subject, and he returns again to depict yet another form of “ self-harming jealousy," which, if less powerfully pourtrayed than Othello's dark passions and dire revenge, yet results from a still nearer and deeper acquaintance with the human heart. It is the restless, self-tormenting, causeless jealousy of a suspicious, wayward mind, which, instead of becoming excited from without, by the arts of false friendship or of base rivals, makes to itself “ the meat it feeds on,” and repels indignantly every friendly counsellor who would medicine its “ diseased opinion.” The struggle of warring thoughts, of gloomy, self-created suspicion,-against truth, and reason, and affection,
,-are all expressed with wonderful force in the involved and broken style, the compressed and suggestive diction, so admirably adapted to the character and object, in which we recognize the peculiar cast of the language of Lear and Macbeth, applied to a new purpose.
The pastoral beauty and romantic sweetness of the poetry of the second part are in exquisite contrast with the preceding acts, in versification and in thought. There are many passages and thoughts there which are probably more often quoted and read than any other on the same or similar subjects, in the language. The inventive, witty, versatile scoundrel, Autolycus, is a character introduced by Shakespeare into the story, and for the first time on the stage. In his external man he belonged especially to the Poet's age, as the delight and pest of wakes, fairs, and rural amusements. But his essential character belongs to the corruptions of civilized society, and may still be met in various costumes, from the hero of the “swell-mob” up to the pleasant and brilliant blower of bubbles for the exchanges and stock-markets of London or New York.
If such, then, be the varied and adınitted beauties and merits of this delightful drama, it may naturally be asked Why is it not then, of course, classed among its author's greatest works?” The reason, in my judgment, is this. It is, that as compared with any one of his mightier efforts, there is a deficiency of that sustained intensity of pur. pose and feeling which, in all poetry or eloquence, not only gives unity of effect to the work, but communicates to the reader a glow of excitement and interest corresponding with that which the author felt. There is abundant evidence of power, but it is, as it were, indolent, and often latent. It would seem as though, instead of having filled his mind and memory with his materials of plot and incident, as he did in other instances, (whether those materials were romantic, legendary, or historical,) and then pouring forth their rough ore refined and new stamped, hot from the mint of his own intellect,—that, finding in Greene's novel a fit canvass to receive some passages of his own thoughts or observations of life,—the idea of wayward, self-willed, self-tormenting, causeless jealousy might be the main object,—he sat down with the book before him, following that as it led his thoughts or snggested new ones; sometimes filling his page with deeper and truer passion ; sometimes rejecting its revolting incidents; and, towards the close, wandering off to luxuriate in the delicate graces of Perdita, or the drollery of his merry scoundrel, Autolycus; but still as continually returning to his author's narrative and characters, and never resolutely or deliberately winging a sustained and loftier flight.
1- I PRAY you :
"- a cheek of two Pile and a half”–Referring to But with the word,” etc.
the “pile” of the velvet patch. Blackstone proposed to read, “Yet I fray you but
- it is your CARBONADOED face"-“Carbonadoed" with the word;" meaning the word “suffer,” which is means “slashed over the face in a manner that fetcbeth plausible. But the old copy is intelligible enough, if, the flesh with it.” The term is derived from carbowith Warburton, we understand “but with the word" nado-a collop of meat. In King LEAR, Kent says to to be equivalent to in a very short time.
the steward, " I'll carbonado your shanks for you." "- the fine's the crown"-From the Latin proverb, in familiar modern use, though of no classical authority,
ACT V.-SCENE I. “Finis coronat opus." “Fine” is used for end, in its primitive sense, which is now retained only in the com
“ Enter a gentle ASTRINGER"—This term signifies a pound phrase, in fine.
gentleman falconer. The word is derived from astur.
cus, or austurcus, (a goshawk.) Cowell, in his “ Law SCENE V.
Dictionary,” says—“We usually call a falconer, who
keeps that kind of hawk, an astringer." “ – villainous saFFRON”—The phrase "unbaked and doughy" shows that here is an allusion to the proverbial lights much in this kind of reduplication, sometimes so
“Our means will make us means"—“Shakespeare deuse of saffron to colour pastry, according to the fancy of
as to obscure his meaning. Helena says, they will fol. the age. (“Saffron to colour the warden-pies."—WIN
low with such speed as the means which they have TER's Tale.) But, as applied to and descriptive of
will give them ability to exert."-Johnson. Parolles, it also alludes to another fantastical usage of the day, and the dress of the coxcomb, in which, of
SCENE II. course, yellow would predominate. The dramatists of the age of Elizabeth, and her successors, are full of al “ – muddied in fortune's mood"-Mud was, in lusions to "yellow starch," "yellow garters," "yellow Shakespeare's day, pronounced nearly like “mood," bands," etc. The red and yellow of the “humble-bee" and hence the intended jingle, which Warburton not continues the sneer on the coxcomb's finery.
adverting to changed "mood" to moat. “Fortune's
mood” is several times used by Shakespeare for the “ – My BAUBLE"-" The fool usually carried in his hand an official sceptre or "bauble,' which was a short
caprices of fortune. stick, ornamented at the end with the figure of a fool's
“ You beg more than one WORD, then"-Parolles, or head, or sometimes with that of a doll, or puppet. To paroles, being French for words, a quibble was intended. this instrument there was frequently annexed an inflated skin or bladder, with which the fool belaboured those
" — you shall eat"_" Parolles has many of the lineawho offended him, or with whom he was inclined to
ments of Falstaff, and seems to be the character which make sport. This was often used by itself, in lieu, as wit than virtue. Though justice required that he should
Shakespeare delighted to draw a fellow that had more it should seem, of a bauble.”-Douce.
be detected and exposed, yet his vices sit so fit in his that he is not at last suffered to starve."-Johnson.
SCENE III. “Her estimation HOME”-i. e. Completely, in its fall extent. So in Macbeth—“That thrusted home," etc.
" — done in the BLADE of youth"-i. e. As Johnson says, “the spring of early life, when the man is yet green.” The next line passes to a new metaphor, or rather “blade" is used not as a formal figure, but in a secondary sense. Most of the editors have thought that the imagery was incongruous, and have adopted Theobald's conjecture of "blaze of youth.” But the old copies all read “blade."
“ — RICHEST eyes"-"Shakespeare means that her beauty had astonished those who, having seen the greatest number of fair women, might be said to be the richest in ideas of beauty. So in As You LIKE IT— To have seen much and to have nothing, is to have rick
eyes and poor hands.'"-Stevens. - Suggest thee from thy master"-i. e. Tempt shine and hail mark a day out of season. The expres
" – a day of SEASON"-i e. A seasonable day. Sunthee from thy master.
sion is still in use in various parts of the United States, “A shrewd knave, and an UNHAPPY”-i. e. Mis though obsolete in England. chievous. In the romance of “Howleglas," unhappi “Contempt his scornful PERSPECTIVE did lend me"ness is used for mischievousness :-"In such manner Apparently used for a glass, or mirror, effecting some colde he cloke and hyde his unhappinesse and fals optical delusion, like the anamorphosis. Thus says an nesse.”. The word "unhappy", is often used in the old writer—"A picture of a Chancellor presented a sense of mischievous, by the old dramatists. It some multitude of little faces; but if one did look at it through times means only unlucky.
a perspective, there appeared only the single pour “ – he has no PACE"-"A pace is a certain
prescribed walk ; so we say of a man meanly obsequious, “Our own love, waking"- I suspect, with Johnson, that he has learned his paces, and of a horse who moves that the author having corrected his first thought, both irregularly, that he has no paces.”—Johnson.
the original and the correction have been preserved, and Ulrici adopts this idea of the resemblance of Parolles, mixed up so as to make a very confused sense. Bat and calls him “ the little appendix to the great Falstaff.” this obscure line may mean that, “Our love, awaking to The two characters seem to me to resemble each other the worth of the lost object, too late laments; our shame. only in their vices, but to have no point in common in ful hate or dislike having slept out the period when our tellectually.
fault was remediable.”
“ The last that, ere I took her leave at court" -The cient orthography of it, being universal in the old chronieditors have found difficulty and proposed alteration in cles, etc., and not quite out of use in Elizabeth's reign. this line, but the sense seems to be clearly, " the last H. Tooke (“ Diversions of Parley') is very contemptime that ever I took leave of her at court."
tuous on Malone for not knowing this. But here the
context indicates that “his" was rneant. The countess " In Florence was it from a casement thrown me"“ Bertram still continues to have too little virtue to de.
of course means that the ring is Bertram's. serve Helena. He did not know indeed that it was
QUOTED for a most perfidious knave”-“Quoted” Helena's ring, but he knew that he had it not from a has the same sense as noted, or observed. So in Ham. window."-JOHNSON. “ I stood Engag'd”-i. e. The noble lady thought that
I am sorry that with better heed and judgment
I had not quoted him. Bertram “stood engag'd” to her. Malone understands it unengaged, as meaning in Old-English un-gaged “ – thou art too Fine"-i. e. Too full of finesse, and gaged being the old word for engaged.
art; being the French trop fin. “ Plutus himself,
"If it appear not plain, and prove untrue"-In That knows the tinct and MULTIPLying medicine," etc. Painter, and in his original, Boccaccio, Helen comes be
“ Plutus, the grand alchemist, who knows the tinc fore Count Bertram at Rousillon, with twins in her arms: ture which confers the properties of gold upon base “Io ti richieggio per Dio, che le conditioni poste mi metals, and the matter by which gold is multiplied, by per li due cavalieri, che io ti mandai, tu le mi osservi : which a small quantity of gold is made to communicate ed ecco nelle mie braccia non un solo figliuolo di le ma its qualities to a large mass of base metal. In the reign due; ed ecco qui il tuo anello ;' which Painter thus of Henry IV. a law was made to forbid all men thence renders :-“ Therefore I now beseche thee, for the forth to multiply gold, or use any craft of multiplication.
honour of God, that thou wilt observe the conditions of this law, Mr. Boyle, when he was warm with the
which the twoo Knightes that I sent unto thee did comhope of transmutation, procured a repeal.”—Johnson.
mannde me to doe; for beholde here, in my armes, not
onely one sonne begotten by thee, but iwayne, and '- if you know
likewyse thy ryng."-(Palace of Pleasure.) In the That you are well acquainted with yourself,” etc.
original story the King is not present at the reconcile“ The true meaning of this expression is, If you know ment of Bertram and Helena. that your faculties are so sound as that you have the proper consciousness of your own actions, and are able to recollect and relate what you have done, tell me,” “This play has many delightful scenes, though not etc.-Johnson.
sufficiently probable, and some happy characters, though - for four or five REMOVES”-i. e. Stages, or jour. not new, nor produced by any deep knowledge of huneys. The petitioner had lost the opportunity of pre
man nature. Parolles is a boaster and a coward, such senting the paper herself, either at Marseilles, or on the as has always been the sport of the stage, but perhaps road from thence to Rousillon, in consequence of having never raised more laughter or contempt than in the been four or five "removes” behind the court.
hands of Shakespeare.
“I cannot reconcile my heart to Bertram: a man " I will buy me a son-in-law in a fair, and toll for
noble without generosity, and young without truth; this"— There has been much contest between this,
who marries Helena as a coward, and leaves her as a which is the reading of the first folio, and that of the second; either of which may have been the true one,
profligate—when she is dead by his unkindness, sneaks
home to a second marriage, is accused by a woman and both are intelligible. I have, with Knight and
whom he has wronged, defends himself by falsehood, Singer, preferred the former.
and is dismissed to happiness. The second folio reads, “I will buy me a son-in-law
“ The story of Bertram and Diana had been told be. in a fair, and toll for him : for this, I'll none of him.”
fore of Mariana and Angelo, and, to confess the truth, • The allusion is to the custom of paying toll for the lib
scarcely merited to be heard a second time."-Johnson. erty of selling in a fair, and means, I will buy me a son-in-law in a fair, and sell this one: pay toll for the
“ The story of All's WELL THAT Ends Well, and liberty of selling him.' So in ‘Hudibras :
of several others of Shakespeare's plays, is taken from a roan gelding,
Boccaccio. The Poet has dramatized the original novel Where, when, by whom, and what were ye sold for, And in the public market tolld for.
with great skill and comic spirit, and has preserved all
the beauty of character and sentiment, without improvThere were two statutes to regulate the tolling of horses in fairs."-SINGER.
ing upon it, which was impossible. There are, indeed, Collier retains and thus defends the other reading:
in Boccaccio's serious pieces, a truth, a pathos, and an “ The meaning is plain, although much comment has
exquisite refinement of sentiment, which are hardly to been wasted upon the passage. Lafeu says, “I will buy
be met with in any other prose-writer whatever. Jus
tice has not been done him by the world. He has in me a son-in-law in a fair, and pay toll for him on the purchase : as for this son-in-law, I'll have nothing to do
general passed for a mere narrator of lascivious tales or with him.''
idle jests. This character probably originated in his
obnoxious attacks on the monks, and has been kept up FOR wives are monsters to you"— The first folio by the grossness of mankind, who revenged their own repeats sir instead of " for,” which Collier, following want of refinement on Boccaccio, and only saw in his an old Ms. correction, reads “for." Sir, with a long S, writings what suited the coarseness of their own tastes. would be easily misprinted “for." Other editors read But the truth is, that he has carried sentiment of every since; but “for" is used in the sense of because. The kind to its very highest purity and perfection. By sensecond folio gives the line thus:
timent, we would here understand the habitual workI wonder, sir, wives are such monsters to you
ings of some one powerful feeling, where the heart rewhich Stevens adopts. The choice is of little moment. poses almost entirely upon itself, without the violent ex" — and rich VALIDITY" —Here, as elsewhere, Shake.
citement of opposing duties or untoward circumstances.
“ The invention implied in his different tales is imspeare uses “validity” for value ; but it is found in no
mense; but we are not to infer that it is all his own. other writer, and seems peculiar to him.
He probably availed himself of all the common tradi“He blushes, and 'tis his"— The old folios have hit, tions which were floating in his time, and which he was instead of "his." Malone reads, “ He blushes, and 'tis the first to appropriate. Homer appears the most origiit,” which may be right, but not, as Malone supposed, | nal of all authors, probably for no other reason than that because it was a misprint; but because hit is the an we can trace the plagiarism no further."-Hazlitt.
“The comic parts of the plot of All's Well THAT Ends WELL, and the characters of the Countess, Lafeu, etc., are of the Poet's own creation; and, in the con. duct of the fable, he has found it expedient to depart from his original more than it is his usual custom to do.
“ Johnson has expressed his dislike of the character of Bertram, and most fair readers have manifested their abhorrence of him, and have thought with Johnson that he ought not to have gone unpunished, for the sake not only of poetical, but of moral justice. Schlegel has remarked, that Shakespeare never attempts to mitigate the impression of his unfeeling pride and giddy dissipation. He intended merely to give us a military portrait; and paints the true way of the world, according to which the injustice of men towards women is not considered in a very serious light, if they only maintain what is called the honour of the family. The fact is, that the construction of his plot prevented him. Helena was to be rewarded for her heroic and persevering affection; and any more serious punishment than the temporary shame and remorse that awaits Bertram, would have been inconsistent with comedy. It should also be remembered that he was constrained to marry Helena against his will. Shakespeare was a good-natured mor. alist ; and, like his own creation, old Lafeu, though he was delighted to strip off the mask of pretension, he thought that punishment might be carried too far.”SINGER.
“Helena is the union of strength of passion with strength of character. “To be tremblingly alive to gentle impressions, and yet able to preserve, when the prosecution of a design requires it, an immovable heart, amidst even the most imperious causes of subduing emotion, is, perhaps, not an impossible constitution of mind ; but it is the utmost and rarest endowment of humanity.'
-(Foster's Essays.) Such a character, almost as difficult to delineate in fiction as to find in real life, has Shakespeare given us in Helena, touched with the most soul-subduing pathos, and developed with the most consummate skill.
“ Although Helena tells herself that she loves in vain, a conviction stronger than reason tells her that she does not. Her love is like a religion, pure, holy, and deep: the blessedness to which she has lifted her thoughts is
ever before her-to despair would be a crime, and would be to cast herself away, and die. The faith of her affection, combining with the natural energy of her character, believing all things possible, makes them so. It could say to the mountain of pride which stands be tween her and her hopes, · Be thou removed ! and it is removed. This is the solution of her behaviour in the marriage-scene, where Bertram, with obvious reluctance and disdain, accepts her hand, which the King, his feudal lord and guardian, forces on him.
“Her maidenly shame is at first shocked, and she shrinks back :
That you are well restored, my lord, I'm glad :
Let the rest go. But shall she weakly relinquish the golden opportunity. and dash the cup from her lips at the moment it is presented ? Shall she cast away the treasure for which she has ventured life, honour, all-when it is just within her grasp ? Shall she, after compromising her feminine delicacy by the public disclosure of her preference, be thrust back into shame, 'to blush out the poor remainder of her life,' and die a poor, lost, scorned thing' This would be very pretty, and interesting, and charac teristic, in Viola or Ophelia; but not at all consistent with that high determined spirit, that moral energy. with which Helena is portrayed. Pride is the only obstacle opposed to her. She is not despised and rejected as a woman, but as a poor physician's daughter; and this, to an understanding so clear, so strong, so just Helena's, is not felt as an unpardonable insult. The mere pride of rank and birth is a prejudice of which she cannot comprehend the force, because her mind towers so immeasurably above it; and, compared with the infinite love that swells in her own bosom, it sinks into nothing. She cannot conceive that he to whom she has devoted her heart and truth, her soul, her life, her service, must not one day love her in return; and, onde her own beyond the reach of fate, that her cares, her caresses, her unwearied, patient tenderness, will not, at last, win her lord to look upon her.'
“It is this fond faith which, hoping all things, enables her to endure all things—which hallows and dignifies the surrender of her woman's pride, making it a sach fice on which virtue and love throw a mingled essence. -MRS. Jameson.