« PreviousContinue »
to the circumstances in which it is placed : breath suspended on the event,—are
« Thus she stood, sistent with all that we imagine of Hermi.
Even with such life of majesty-warm life.
The fixture of her eye has motion in't,
And we are mock'd with art!'
And by Polixenes,
• The very life seems warm upon her lip,' with Hermione for her obstinate and
appear strangely applied to a statue, such sullen seclusion of sixteen years,
as we usually imagine it-of the cold have found a stumblingblock in the in this scene Hermione personates one of
colourless marble; but it is evident that Living Statue. The scene is extravagant, absurd, unnatural, incredible;
those images or effigies, such as we may and so it is to critics without feeling, the stone, or marble, was coloured after
see in the old gothic cathedrals, in which passion, fancy, imagination, to all of
nature. I remember coming suddenly wbich that wondrous scene appeals, upon one of these effigies, either at Basle and over all of which it triumphs.
or at Fribourg, which made me start: the The delusion is like reality, and the figure was large as life ; the drapery of reality like delusion, and in delight crimson, powdered with stars of gold; the they both are dreadful. The sixteen face, and eyes, and hair tinted after the life, years are swallowed up in that one thougii faded by time; it stood in a gothic moment. Never was the passion of niche, over a tomb, as I think, and in a joy so tragic. Had Leontes been a kind of dim uncertain light. It would have nobler being, it had proved mortal. been very easy for a living person to reBut our words are tame-here are present such an estigy, particularly if it had paragraphs poured forth in true in- been painted by that 'rare Italian master, spiration.
Julio Romano,' who, as we are inform
ed, was the reputed author of this wonder“ This scene, then, is not only one ofthe
ful statue. most picturesque and striking instances of
" The moment when Hermione descends stage effect to be found in the ancient or
from her pedestal to the sound of soft modern drama, but, by the skilful manner
music, and throws herself without speakin which it is prepared, it has, wonderful ing into her husband's arms, is one of inas it appears, all the merit of consistency
expressible interest. It appears to me that and truth. The grief, the love, the re
lier silence during the whole of this scene morse, and impatience of Leontes, are
(except where she invokes a blessing on finely contrasted with the astonishment
her daughter's head) is in the finest taste and admiration of Perdita, who, gazing on
as a poetical beauty, besides being an adthe figure of her mother like one entran
mirable trait of character. The misfor ced, looks as if she were also turned to marble. There is here one little instance clusion, the wonderful and almost superna
tunes of Hermione, her long religious seof tender remembrance in Leontes, which
tural part she had just enacted, have inadds to the charming impression of Her
vested her with such a sacred and awful mione's character.
charm, that any words put into her mouth, * Chide me, dear stone! that I may say indeed Thou art Hermione; or rather thou art she
must, I think, have injured the solemn and In thy not (hiding, for she was as tender
profound pathos of the situation. As infancy and grace.
“ There are several among ShakThus she stood, Even with such life of majesty, (warm life,
speare's characters which exercise a far As now it coldly stands,) when first I woo'd her !" stronger power over our feelings, our The effect produced on the different per- fancy, our understanding, than that of sons of the drama by this living statue- Hermione; but not one,-unless perhaps and effect which at the same moment is,
Cordelia,-constructed upon so high and and is not illusion-the manner in which pure a principle. It is the union of the feelings of the spectators become en- gentleness with power which constitutes tangled between the conviction of death the perfection of ental grace. Thus, and the impression of life, the idea of a de- among the ancients, with whom the graces ception and the feeling of a reality, and the were also the charities, one and the exquisite colouring of poetry and touches same word signified equally strength of natural feeling with which the whole and virtue. This feeling, carried into is wrought up,—till wonder, expectation, the fine arts, was the secret of the anand intense pleasure, hold our pulse and tique grace-the grace of repose. The VOL. XXXIII. NO, CCIII.
same eternal nature—the same sense of had fallen upon her unawares.' Thus immutable truth and beauty, which re. Belphæbe, in the Fairy Queen, issues vealed this sublime principle of art to from the flowering forest with hair the ancient Greeks, revealed it to the and garments all besprinkled with genius of Shakspeare; and the charac- the leaves and blossoms they had enter of Hermione, in which we have the tangled in her flight; and so arrayed same largeness of conception and delicacy by chance and ‘heedless hap,' takes of execution, the same effect of suffer
all parts with stately presence and ing without passion, and grandeur with.
with princely port, most like to out effort, is an instance, I think, that he
Perdita.” felt within bimself, and by intuition, what
'Tis surely the loveliest pastoral we study all our lives in the remains of ancient art. The calm, regular, classical poem in the world, this of Florizel beauty of Hermione's character is the and Perdita. All unknown to Hermore impressive from the wild and gothic mione, in her sad seclusion, has her accompaniments of her story, and the lost child been leading a life of beaubeautiful relief afforded by the pastoral tiful innocence and happiness; and and romantic grace which is thrown
the princely son of the man whom around her daughter Perdita.”
her infatuated husband had suspectThe character of Paulina is well and won the royal shepherdess.
ed her of loving too well, has woo'd understood by our fair critic, who, There is something infinitely dein several places, speaks of the use lightful in such an alliance, that Shakspeare delighted so powerfully finally heals and restores, and brings to make of the great principle of all disturbances within the dominion eontrast. She observes, that it is of reconciliation and peace. admirable how Hermione and Paulina, while sufficiently approximated to afford all the pleasure of contrast, dita her distinct individuality, are the
“ The qualities which impart to Perare never brought too nearly in con
beautiful combination of the pastoral with tact on the scene or in the dialogue. the elegant-of simplicity with elevation Only in the last scene, when, with -of spirit with sweetness. The exquisolemnity befitting the occasion, site delicacy of the picture is apparent. Paulina wishes the majestic figure to To understand and appreciate its effective “descend, and be stone no more," truth and nature, we should place Perand where she presents her daughter dita beside some of the nymphs of Arto her, "Turn, good lady! our Per- cadia, or of the Italian pastorals, who, dita is found.” To have done other however graceful in themselves, when wise, she remarks, would have been opposed to Perdita, seem to melt away a fault in taste, and would have ne into mere poetical abstractions : As, in cessarily weakened the effect of both Spenser, the fair but fictitious Florimel, characters-either the serene gran
which the subtle enchantress had moulded deur of Hermione would have sub out of snow,' vermeil tinctured,' and dued and overawed the fiery spirit informed with an airy spirit, that knew of Paulina, or the impetuous temper
all wiles of woman's wits,' fades and of the latter must have disturbed in dissolves away, when placed next to the some respect our impression of the
real Florimel, in her warm, breathing, calm, majestic, and somewhat melan
human, loveliness. choly beauty of Hermione.
" Perdita does not appear till the of Perdita, Mrs Jameson speaks fourth act, and the whole of the characin another part of her work, under the
ter is developed in the course of a single class of “ Characters of Passion and
scene, (the third) with a completeness
of effect which leaves nothing to be reImagination;" but we canuot resist quired—nothing to be supplied. She is the temptation of introducing here
first introduced in the dialogue between some of her five sentences concern.
berself and Florizel, where she compares ing that incomparable "union of the
her own lowly state to his princely rank, pastoral and romantic with the clas
and expresses her fears of the issue of sical and poetical, as if a Dryad of their unequal attachment. With all ber the woods had turned shepherdess. timidity, and her sense of the distance The perfections with which the poet which separates her from her lover, she has so lavishly endowed her, sit up breathes not a single word which could on her with a certain careless and lead us to impugn either her delicacy or picturesque grace, 'as though they her dignity."
The impression of her perfect beau- are touches of character conveyed indi. ty and airy elegance of demeanour rectly, and which serve to give a more the artless manner in which her finished effect to this beautiful picture.” innate nobility of soul shines forth through her partial disguise — her
From Hermione, after many years natural loftiness of spirit, breaking turn we to Desdemona, after a few
of sorrow restored to life and light, out when she is menaced and reviled by the king, as one whom his months' bliss delivered into the darkson has degraded himself by merely that can render sorrow majestic is
ness of death and the grave. looking on—the immediate recollection of herself, and of her humble gathered around Hermione-all that state; and her hapless love, so full of
can render misery heart-breaking is
assembled round Desdemona! The beauty, tenderness, and naturethat sense of truth and rectitude, that
wronged but self-sustained virtue upright simplicity of mind which of Hermione commands our veneradisdains all crooked and indirect tion; the injured and defenceless means, and would not stoop for an
innocence of Desdemona so wrings instant to dissemblance, while it is
the soul,' that all for pity we could
die!'” mingled with a noble confidence in her love, and in her lover-to all
Wordsworth's fine line is familiar
to all ears. these delightful traits and touches our attention is turned with the
“ The gentle lady married to the Moor." finest perception of the natural and poetical, in the accompanying ex
Yet Desdemona displays at times, tracts, which breathe of beauty like quoth our fair critic, a transient the groves in spring.
energy, arising from the power of
affection; but gentleness gives the “ This love of truth, this conscientious- prevailing tone to the character. So ness, which forms so distinct a feature in thought Othello." Then of so gentle the character of Perdita, and mingles with a condition !” Iago.
Aye, too its picturesque delicacy a certain firmness gentle.” Poison presented in a flower! and dignity, is maintained consistently Yet gentle as she is—to excess-to to the last. When the two lovers fly passiveness—to non-resistance—it is together from Bohemia, and take refuge here truly said, that to us who perin the court of Leontes, the real father ceive her character as a whole, the of Perdita, Florizel, presents himself be
extreme gentleness is portrayed with fore the king with a feigned tale, in wbich such exceeding refinement, that the he has been artfully instructed by the old counsellor Camillo. During this scene,
effect never approaches to feeblePerdita does not utter a word. In the think on the face of the Moor when
ness. If it ever do, Oh, Heavens ! strait in which they are placed, she can- madden'd! Desdemona says, that not deny the story which Florizel re
when he rolled his eyes, he was“ falates; she will not confirm it. Her si. lence, in spite of all the compliments had seen him in fits before he thought
tal then;" so it would seem that she and greetings of Leontes, has a peculiar of smothering her with pillow and and characteristic grace; and at the conclusion of the scene, when they are be
bolster. Once only in ber whole life trayed, the truth bursts from her as if in- had she ever prevaricated ; about stinctively, and she exclaims with emo
the handkerchief, wheu Othello said, tion,
"there's magic in the web of it.” Nor
do we remember to have heard the • The heavens set spies upon us will not have
remark Mrs Jamieson makes on that
prevarication :-“Desdemona, whose “ After this scene Perdita says very soft credulity, whose turn for the little. The description of her grief, while marvellous, whose susceptible imaistening to the relation of her mother's gination had first directed her death, and of her deportment as she thoughts and affections to Othello, is stands gazing on the statue of Hermione, precisely the woman to be frightened fixed in wonder, admiration, and sorrow, as if she too were marble
out of her senses by such a tale as
this, and betrayed by her fears into O royal piece!
a momentary tergiversation. It is There's magic in thy majesty, which has most natural in such a being, and From thy admiring daughter ta'en the spirits, Standing like stone beside thee!'
shows us that even in the sweetest
Our contract celebrated.'
natures, without moral energy there So completely did Shakspeare enter into can be no completeness and consist- the angelic refinement of the character. ency.” Once she prevaricated, and “ Endued with that temper which is once she licd.
the origin of superstition in love as in " Emilia. 0, who hath done this deed ? religion,—which, in fact, makes love itDes. Nobody; I myself; farewell !
self a religion,-she not only does not Commend me to my kind lord; O fare
utter an upbraiding, but nothing that
Othello does or says, no outrage, no inwell!” Othello . She's
, like a liar, gone to burn- justice can tear away the charm with ing hell!
which her imagination had invested him, 'Twas I that kill'd her."
or impair her faith in his honour;
• Would you had never seen him!' exLike a liar gone to burning hell! a claims Emilia. jaundiced, a swarthy, and a bloody
• Des. So would not Il-my love doth so apjudgment. Was ever forgiveness so
prove him, taken
That even his stubbornness, his checks and frowns,
Have grace and favour in them.'" angel wings, to heaven!
We would not for all the world say The character is felt rightly by this one word in disparagement of Here - her most eloquent eulogist of her mione; but the dignity of that virtues-to be vitally the same as that “ Queen, matron, and mother," ele- of Miranda. Throughout the whole vating as it is, and most noble, af.
noble, af- of the dialogue appropriated to Desfects us not so profoundly as the in- demona, there is not, it is hinted, one nocence—the holy ignorance of Des- general observation. Words are with demona.
her the vehicle of sentiment, and “ When Othello first outrages her in
never of reflection; just as they ala manner which appears inexplicable, she ways are with the Lady of the Enseeks and finds excuses for him. She chanted Isle, and with no other of is so innocent, that not only she cannot Shakspeare's female characters of believe herself suspected, but she cannot any importance or interest—not even conceive the existence of guilt in others. Ophelia.
Something, sure, of state,
" Desdemona, as a character, comes Made demonstrable here in Cyprus to him, nearest to Miranda, both in herself as a Hath puddled his clear spirit."
woman, and in the perfect simplicity and Nay, we must think, men are not gods,
unity of the delineation; the figures are Nor of them look for such observances As fit the bridal.'
differently draped the proportions are
the same. There is the same modesty, And when the direct accusation of crime
tenderness, and grace; the same artless is flung on her in the vilest terms, it devotion in the affections, the same predoes not anger but stun her, as if it disposition to wonder, to pity, to admire ; transfixed her whole being : she attempts the same almost etherial refinement and no reply, no defence ; and reproach or delicacy; but all is pure poetic nature resistance never enter her thought; within Miranda and around her: Desde• Good friend, go to him-for by this light of mona is more associated with the palI know not how I lost him : here I kneel:
pable realities of every-day existence, and If e'er my will did trespass 'gainst his love,
we see the forms and habits of society
no two beings can be more alike in chaOr that I do not yet, and ever did,
racter—nor more distinct as individuals.'
Othello, beyond all doubt, was a
tures powerful o'er the blood,” her “ And there is one stroke of consum
farther simply imputed Desdemona's mate delicacy, surprising, when we re. love, and lago, with devilish maligmember the latitude of expression pre- nity, to another cause, “aye there's vailing in Shakspeare's time, and which the point.” But Shakspeare knew he allowed to his other women general- better-and saw how it was beguiled ly; she says, on recovering from her stu- into her bosom by “disparity of age, pefaction
character, country, complexion.” "Am I that name, lago ?
We who are admitted into the se-
cret, says Mrs Jameson ; see her
'Tis even so
out of the leading propensities of her effect—lies in the character of Desdenature.
mona. No woman differently constituted " At the period of the story a spirit of could have excited the same intense and wild adventure had seized all Europe. painful compassion, without losing someThe discovery of both Indies was yet re- thing of that exalted charm, which invests cent; over the shores of the western he- her from beginning to end, which we are misphere still fable and mystery hung, apt to impute to the interest of situation, with all their dim enchantments, vision and to the poetical colouring, but which ary terrors, and golden promises; peril- lies, in fact, in the very essence of the ous expeditions and distant voyages were character. Desdemona, with all her timid every day undertaken from hope of plun- flexibility and soft acquiescence, is not der, or mere love of enterprise; and from weak; for the negative alone is weak, these the adventurers returned with tales and the mere presence of goodness and of • Antres vast and desarts wild-of can affection implies in itself a species of nibals that did each other eat-of An- power;—power without consciousness, thropophagi, and men whose heads did power without effort, power with repose grow beneath their shoulders.' With just that soul of grace !" such stories did Raleigh and Clifford, and their followers, return from the New star, shining so resplendently that
You have seen a large lustrous World : and thus by their splendid or fearful exaggerations, which the imperfect many other fair lights were around
none but itself was regarded, although knowledge of those times could not refute, was the passion for the romantic and deep line of clouds, that had arisen,
their queen, when all at once a long marvellous nourished at home, particu. larly among the women. A cavalier of you knew not whence, before some those days had no nearer, no surer way strong gust in the upper region, has to his mistress's heart, than by entertain wholly hidden it, and brought darking her with these wondrous narratives.
ness over all the heavens. Dim hours What was a general feature of his time, glimmer by, and, lo ! again the same Shakspeare seized and adapted to his pur- luminary, less bright but not less pose with the most exquisite felicity of beauteous, is burning in the zenith. effect. Desdemona, leaving her house. Such a star was Hermione. You hold cares in haste, to hang breathless on have seen a milder, a meeker orbOthello's tales, was doubtless a picture dewy in its first rising—and ere long from the life; and her inexperience and struggling in its “innocent brighther quick imagination lend it an added ness,” through melancholy mists, till propriety: then her compassionate dis- strangled by a savage tempest. An position is interested by all the disastrous image of Desdemona ! And when chances, hair-breadth 'scapes, and moving the cloud-rack is driving fast, yet accidents by food and field, of which he glimpses of blue sky are intersperhas to tell; and her exceeding gentleness sed peacefully, among the shifting and timidity, and her domestic turn of congregation of vapours, ever and mind, render her more easily captivated
anon an Urn of Light reappears and by the military renown, the valour, and
retires, now with a mournful and lofty bearing of the noble Moor
now almost with a joyful beauty, in "And to his honours and his valiant parts
its lonely pilgrimage along the woodDoes she her soul and fortunes consecrate.'
ed ridges of the mountains. Imo“ The confession and the excuse for her love is well placed in the mouth of Of those Three Ladies, which is Desdemona, while the history of the rise the loveliest and the best? “Of all of that love, and of bis course of wooing, Shakspeare's women, considered as is, with the most graceful propriety, as individuals rather than as heroines, far as she is concerned, spoken by Ochel- Imogen is the most perfect. There lo, and in her absence. The last two lines summing up the whole
is no female portrait that can be
compared to Imogen as a woman• She loved me for the dangers I had pass'd, none in which so great a variety of And I loved her that she did pity them'
tints are mingled together in such comprise whole volumes of sentiment and perfect harmony. In her we have metaphysics.”
all the fervour of youthful tender
ness, all the romance of youthful “ I will only add, that the source of the beauty, all the enchantment of ideal pathos throughout-of that pathos which grace,—the bloom of beauty, the at once softens and deepens the tragic brightness of intellect, and the dig