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TWELFTH NIGHT; OR, WHAT YOU WILL.
“ The Twelfth Night, or What you Will, unites the entertainment of an intrigue, contrived with great ingenuity, to a rich fund of comic characters and situations, and the beauteous colours of an ethereal poetry. In most of his plays, Shakspeare treats love more as an affair of the imagination than the heart ; but here he has taken particular care to remind us that, in his language, the same word, fancy, signified both fancy and love. The love of the music-enraptured Duke for Olivia is not merely a fancy, but an imagination ; Viola appears at first to fall arbitrarily in love with the Duke, whom she serves as a page, although she afterwards touches the tenderest strings of feeling; the proud Olivia is captivated by the modest and insinuating messenger of the Duke, in whoin she is far from suspecting a disguised rival, and at last, by a second deception, takes the brother for the sister. To these, which I might call ideal follies, a contrast is formed by the naked absurdities to which the entertaining tricks of the ludicrous persons of the piece give rise, under the pretext also of love : the silly and profligate knight's awkward courtship of Olivia, and her declaration of love to Viola ; the imagination of the pedantic steward, Valvolio, that his mistress is secretly in love with him, which carries him so far that he is at last shut up as a lunatic, and visited by the clown in the dress of a priest. These scenes are admirably conceived, and as significant as they are laughable. If this were really, as is asserted, Shakspeare's latest work, he must have enjoyed to the last the same youthful elasticity of mind, and have carried with him to the grave the undiminished fulness of his talents.”-SCHLEGEL.
“ The serious and the humorous scenes are alike excellent; the former
give a very echo to the seat Where love is thron’d,'
and are tinted with those romantic hues, which impart to passion the fascinations of fancy, and which stamp the poetry of Shakespeare with a character so transcendently his own, so sweetly wild, so tenderly imayinative. Of this description are the loves of Viola and Orsino, which, though involving a few improbabilities of incident, are told in a manner so true to nature, and in a strain of such melancholy enthusiasm, as instantly put to flight all petty objections, and leave the mind wrapt in a dream of the most delicious sadness. The fourth scene of the second act more particularly breathes the blended emotions of love, of hope, and of despair, opening with a highly interesting description of the soothing effects of music in allaying the pangs of unrequited affection, and in which the attachment of Shakespeare to the simple melodies of the oldest time is strongly and beautifully expressed.
“ From the same source which has given birth to this delightful pertjons of the drama, appears to spring a large share of that rich and frolic humour which distingishes its gayer incidents. The delusion of Malvolio, in supposing himself the object of Olivia's desires, and the ludicrous pretension of Sir Andrew Aguecheek to the same lady, fostered as they are by the comic manæuvres of the convivial Sir Toby and the keen-witted Maria, furnish, together with the professional drollery of Feste the jester, an ever-varying fund of pleasantry and mirth ; scenes in which wit and raillery are finely blended with touches of original character, and strokes of poignant satire.”—DRAKE.
THE FIRST PART OF
KING HENRY THE SIXTH.
The first edition of this play known, is that of the folio 1623. It is generally supposed to be the same “ Henery the vj.," somewhat modified and improved by Shakespeare, which is entered in Henslowe's diary as first acted on the 3rd of March, 1591–2, and to which Nash alludes in his “ Pierce Pennilesse, his Supplication to the Devil,” 1592:-"How would it have joy'd brave Talbot (the terror of the French) to thinke that after he had lyne two hundred yeare in his tombe, he should triumph againe on the stage, and have his bones new embalmed with the teares of ten thousand spectators at least, (at severall times,) who, in the tragedian that represents his person, imagine they behold him fresh bleeding.” This opinion has, however, been strenuously impugned by Mr. Knight, in his able “ Essay on the Three Parts of King Henry VI. and King Richard III.,” wherein he attempts to show, that the present drama, as well as the two parts of the “Contention betwixt the two famous houses of Yorke and Lancaster," which Malone has been at such infinite pains to prove the works of earlier writers, are wholly the productions of Shakespeare.
The subject is of extreme difficulty, and one upon which there will always be a conflict of opinion. For our own part, we can no more agree with Mr. Knight in ascribing the piece before us solely to Shakespeare, than with Malone in the attempt to despoil him of the two parts of the “Contention.” To us, in the present play, the hand of the great Master is only occasionally perceptible; while in the “ Contention,” it is unmistakeably visible in nearly every scene. The former was probably an early play of some inferior author, which he partly re-modelled; the latter appears to have been his first alteration of a more important production, perhaps by Marlowe, Greene, and Peele, which he subsequently re-wrote, rechristened, and divided, as it now appears, into what are called the Second and Third Parts of Henry VI.
KING HENRY VI.
Duke of York.
CHARLES, Dauphin, afterwards King of France.
MARGARET, Daughter to Reignier ; afterwards married to King Henry.
Lords, Warders of the Tower, Heralds, Officers, Soldiers, Messengers, and various
Attendants both on the English and French, Fiends appearing to La Pucelle.
SCENE,---Partly in England, and partly in France.