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due them to the dominion of imagination. | a reflection in the allusions of this accurate What cared they, then, if a ship set sail observer. from Verona to Milan, when Valentine and The pursuits of the gallant spirits of the his man ought to have departed in a car- court of Elizabeth are reflected in several riage ?---or what mattered it if Hamlet went expressions of this comedy. The incidental "to school at Wittemberg," when the real notices of the general condition of the people Hamlet was in being five centuries before are less decided ; but a few passages that the university of Wittemberg was founded ? have reference to popular manners may be If Shakspere had lived in this age, he might pointed out. have looked more carefully into his maps

The boyhood of Shakspere was passed in and his encyclopædias. We might have a country town where the practices of the gained something, but what should we not Roman church had not been wholly eradihave lost?

cated either by severity or reason.

We "Shakspere,” says Malone, “is fond of al- have one or two passing notices of these. luding to events occurring at the time when Proteus, in the first scene, says, he wrote;"* and Johnson observes that many

"I will be thy beadsman, Valentine.” passages in his works evidently show that "he often took advantage of the facts then Shakspere had, doubtless, seen the rosary recent, and the passions then in motion." + still worn, and the “beads bidden,” perhaps This was a part of the method of Shakspere, even in his own house. by which he fixed the attention of his au- the strength of her affection to the undience. The Nurse, in “Romeo and Juliet,' wearied steps of “the true-devoted pilgrim." says, “It is now since the earthquake eleven Shakspere bad, perhaps, heard the tale of years.” Dame Quickly, in The Merry Wives some ancient denizen of a ruined abbey, of Windsor,' talks of her“ knights, and lords, who had made the pilgrimage to the shrine and gentlemen, with their coaches, I warrant of Our Lady at Loretto, or had even visited you, coach after coach.” Coaches came into the sacred tomb at Jerusalem. Thurio and general use about 1605.

“ Banks's horse," Proteus are to meet at "St. Gregory's well.” which was exhibited in London in 1589, is This is the only instance in Shakspere in mentioned in ‘Love's Labour's Lost.' These, which a holy well is mentioned; but how amongst other instances which we shall have often must he have seen the country people, occasion to notice, are not to be regarded as in the early summer morning, or after their determining the period of the dramatic ac- daily labour, resorting to the fountain which tion; and, indeed, they are, in many cases,

had been hallowed from the Saxon times as decided anachronisms. In 'The Two Gentle under the guardian influence of some venemen of Verona' there are several very curious rated saint! These wells were closed and and interesting passages which have distinct neglected in London when Stow wrote; but reference to the times of Elizabeth, and which, at the beginning of the last century the cusif Milan had then been under a separate du- tom of making journeys to them, according cal government, would have warranted us in to Bourne, still existed amongst the people placing the action of this play about half of the North; and he considers it to be “the a century later than we have done. As it remains of that superstitious practice of the is, the passages are remarkable examples of Papists of paying adoration to wells and Shakspere's close attention to “facts then fountains.” This play contains several inrecent;” and they show us that the spirit dications of the prevailing taste for music, of enterprise, and the intellectual activity, and exhibits an audience proficient in its which distinguished the period when Shak- | technical terms; for Shakspere never adspere first began to write for the stage, found dressed words to his hearers which they

could not understand. This taste was a * Life, vol. ii. p. 331, edit, 1821.

distinguishing characteristic of the age of † Note on 'King John.'

Elizabeth; it was not extinct in that of the

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first Charles; but it was lost amidst the pu- of this play, says of it, “ There is a strange ritanism of the Commonwealth and the pro- mixture of knowledge and ignorance, of care fligacy of the Restoration. There is one al- and negligence.” Mrs. Lenox (who, in the lusion in this play to the games of the people best slip-slop manner, does not hesitate to _“bid the base,"—which shows us that the pass judgment upon many of the greatest social sport which the school-boy and school works of Shakspere) says, “ 'T is generally girl still enjoy,—that of prison-base, or prison- allowed that the plot, conduct, manners, bars,--and which still makes the village green and incidents of this play are extremely vocal with their mirth on some fine evening deficient.” On the other hand, Pope gives of spring, was a game of Shakspere's days. the style of this comedy the high praise of In the long winter nights the farmer's hearth being “natural and unaffected ;" although was made cheerful by the well-known ballads he complains that the familiar parts are of Robin Hood; and to “Robin Hood's fat “composed of the lowest and most trifling friar” Shakspere makes his Italian outlaws conceits, to be accounted for only by the allude. But with music, and sports, and ales, gross taste of the age he lived in.” Johnson and old wives' stories, there was still much says, “When I read this play, I cannot but misery in the land. “The beggar” not only think that I find, both in the serious and luspake “puling” “at Hallowmas,” but his dicrous scenes, the language and sentiments importunities or his threats were heard at of Shakspere. It is not, indeed, one of his all seasons.

The disease of the country was most powerful effusions; it has neither many vagrancy; and to this deep-rooted evil there diversities of character, nor striking deliwere only applied thė surface remedies to neations of life. But it abounds in youai which Launce alludes, “ the stocks” and (sententious observations) beyond most of “the pillory." The whole nation was still his plays; and few have more lines or in a state of transition from semi-barbarism passages which, singly considered, are emito civilization ; but the foundations of mo- nently beautiful.” Coleridge, the best of dern society had been laid. The labourers critics on Shakspere, has no remark on this had ceased to be vassals; the middle class play beyond calling it “a sketch.” Hazlitt, had been created; the power of the aristo- in a more elaborate criticism, follows out cracy had been humbled, and the nobles had the same idea : " This is little more than the clustered round the sovereign, having cast first outlines of a comedy loosely sketched in. aside the low tastes which had belonged It is the story of a novel dramatised with to their fierce condition of independent very little labour or pretension ; yet there chieftains. This was a state in which li- are passages of high poetical spirit, and terature might, without degradation, be of inimitable quaintness of humour, which adapted to the wants of the general peo- are undoubtedly Shakspere's; and there is ple; and “the best public instructor” then throughout the conduct of the fable a carewas the drama. Shakspere found the taste less grace and felicity which marks it for created; but it was for him, most especially, his.” We scarcely think that Coleridge and to purify and exalt it.

Hazlitt are correct in considering this play Without any reference to the period of the “a sketch," if it be taken as a whole. In poet's life in which «The Two Gentlemen the fifth act, unquestionably, the outlines are of Verona' was written, Theobald tells us, “ loosely sketched in.” The unusual short" This is one of Shakspeare's worst plays.” ness of that act would indicate that it is, in Hanmer thinks Shakspere “only enlivened some degree, hurried and unfinished. If the it with some speeches and lines, thrown in text be correct which makes Valentine offer here and there." Upton determines “that, to give up Silvia to Proteus, there cannot if any proof can be drawn from manner and be a doubt that the poet intended to have style, this play must be sent packing, and worked out this idea, and to have exhibited seek for its parent elsewhere.” Johnson, a struggle of self-denial, and a sacrifice to though singularly favourable in his opinion friendship, which very young persons are in


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clined to consider possible. Friendship has | imagines that it might have been written its romance as well as love. In the other at Stratford, and have formed his chief reparts of the comedy there is certainly ex- commendation to the Blackfriars company. tremely little that can be called sketchy. He adds,—“ This play appears to me enThey appear to us to be very carefully finished. riched with all the freshness of youth ; with There may be a deficiency of power, but not strong indications of his future matured of elaboration. A French writer who has ana poetical power and dramatic effect. It is lysed all Shakspere's plays (M. Paul Duport) the day-spring of genius, full of promise, considers that this play possesses a powerful beauty, and quietude, before the sun bas charm, which he attributes to the brilliant arisen to its splendour. I can likewise disand poetical colouring of its style. He thinks, cern in it his peculiar gradual development and justly, that a number of graceful compa- of character, his minute touches, each tendrisons, and of vivid and picturesque images, ing to complete a portrait ; and if these are here take the place of the bold and natural not executed by the master-hand, as shown conceptions (the “vital and organic" style, in his later plays, they are by the same as Coleridge expresses it) which are the ge- apprentice-hand, each touch of strength neral characteristic of his genius. In these sufficient to harmonise with the whole.” elegant generalizations M. Duport properly Johnson says of this play, “I am inclined recognises the vagueness and indecision of to believe that it was not very successful.” the youthful poet*. The remarks of A. W. It is difficult to judge of the accuracy of Schlegel on this comedy are acute, as usual: this belief. The “quietude,” the “minute -“* The Two Gentlemen of Verona' paints touches,” may not have been exactly suited the irresolution of love, and its infidelity to to an audience who had as yet been unaccuswards friendship, in a pleasant, but, in some

tomed to the delicate lights and shadows of degree, superficial manner; we might almost the Elizabethan drama. Shakspere, in some say with the levity of mind which a passion degree, stood in the same relation to his predesuddenly entertained, and as suddenly given cessors as Raffaelle did to the earlier painters. up, presupposes. The faithless lover is at last The gentle gradations, the accurate distances, forgiven without much difficulty by his first the harmony and repose, had to be superadded mistress, on account of his ambiguous repent to the hard outlines, the strong colouring, and ance. For the more serious part, the preme

the disproportionate parts of the elder artists, ditated flight of the daughter of a prince, the in the one case as in the other. But our captivity of her father along with herself by dramatist, who unquestionably always looked a band of robbers, of which one of the two

to what the stage demanded from him, howgentlemen, the faithful and banished friend, ever' he may have looked beyond the mere has been compulsively elected captain,—for wants of his present audience, put enough of all this a peaceful solution is soon found. attractive matter into The Two Gentlemen It is as if the course of the world was obliged of Verona' to command its popularity. No to accommodate itself to a transient youthful

"clown" that had appeared on the stage becaprice, called love." + A writer, who has fore his time could at all approach to Launce well studied Shakspere, and has published in real humour. But the clowns that the a volume of very praiseworthy research I, celebrated Tarleton represented had mere distinguished for correct taste and good feel- words of buffoonery put into their mouths ; ing (although some of its theories may be and it is not to be wondered at that Shakspere reasonably doubted), considers this comedy retained some of their ribaldry. It would be Shakspere's first dramatic production, and

some time before he would be strong enough * • Essais Littéraires sur Shakspeare,' tome 1j. p. 357.

to assert the rights of his own genius, as he Paris, 1828.

unquestionably did in his later plays. He + Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature,' Black's nust, as a young writer, have been somet'Shakspeare's Autobiographical Pocms,'&c. By Charles

times forced into a sacrifice to the popular Armitage Brown. 1838.


translation, vol. ii. p. 156.


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Mr. Boaden, as it is stated by Malone, is Than on the torture of the mind to lie of opinion that “The Two Gentlemen of In restless ecstacy." Verona' contains the germ of other plays which Shakspere afterwards wrote*. The There are, generally speaking, resemblances expression, “ germ of other plays,” is some

throughout the works of Shakspere, which what undefined. There are in this play the his genius alone could have preserved from germ of several incidents and situations being imitations. But, taking the particuwhich occur in the poet's maturer works- | lar instance before us, when with matured the germ of some others of his most admired powers he came to deal with somewhat similar characters—the germ of one or two of his incidents and characters in other plays, and most beautiful descriptions. When Julia is to repeat the leading idea of a particular deputed by Proteus to bear a letter to Silvia, sentiment, we can, without difficulty, perurging the love which he ought to have ceive how vast a difference had been prokept sacred for herself, we are reminded of duced by a few years of reflection and exViola, in “Twelfth Night,' being sent to perience ;-how he had made to himself an plead the Duke's passion for Olivia, although entirely new school of art, whose practice the other circumstances are widely different ;

was as superior to his own conceptions as —when we see Julia wearing her boy's dis- embodied in his first works, as it was beyond guise, with a modest archness and spirit, our

the mastery of his contemporaries, or of thoughts involuntarily turn not only to any who have succeeded him. It was for Viola, but to Rosalind, and to Imogen, three this reason that Pope called the style of of the most exquisite of Shakspere's exqui

The Two Gentlemen of Verona' simple site creations of female character ;-when and unaffected.” It was opposed to ShakValentine, in the forest of Mantua, ex

spere's later style, which is teeming with claims,

allusion upon allusion, dropped out of the

exceeding riches of his glorious imagination. “ How use doth breed a habit in a man!

With the exception of the few obsolete This shadowy desert, unfrequented woods, I better brook han flourishing peopled towns," words, and the unfamiliar application of

words still in use, this comedy has, to our we hear the first faint notes of the same de- minds, a very modern air. The thoughts licious train of thought, though greatly mo- are natural and obvious, the images familiar dified by the different circumstances of the and general. The most celebrated passages speaker, that we find in the banished Duke have a character of grace rather than of of the forest of Ardennes :

beauty; the elegance of a youthful poet

aiming to be correct, instead of the splen“Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,

dour of the perfect artist, subjecting every Hath not old custom made this life more

crude and apparently unmanageable thought sweet Than that of painted pomp?”

to the wonderful alchymy of his all-pene

trating genius. Look, in this comedy, at When Valentine exclaims,

the images, for example, which are derived “And why not death, rather than living tor- from external nature, and compare them ment?”

with the same class of images in the later we recollect the grand passage in ‘Macbeth, plays. We might select several illustrations,

but one will suffice : where the same thought is exalted, and rendered terrible, by the peculiar circumstances

“ As the most favour'd bud of the speaker's guilt

Is eaten by the canker ere it blow; “Better be with the dead,

Even so by love the young and tender wit Whom we, to gain our place, have sent to

Is turn'd to folly; blasted in the bud,

Losing his verdure even in the prime." peace, * Malone's Shakspeare, by Boswell, vol. ii. p. 32.

Here the image is feeble, because it is ge


neralized. But compare it with the same particular.” It constitutes the peculiar image in 'Romeo and Juliet:'

charm of his matured style, -it furnishes “But he, his own affection's counsellor,

the key to the surpassing excellence of his Is to himself-I will not say how true,

representations, whether of facts which are But to himself so secret and so close,

cognizable by the understanding or by the So far from sounding and discovering,

senses, in which a single word individualizes As is the bud bit with an envious worm,

the “particular” object described or alluded Ere he can spread his sweet leaves to the air, to, and, without separating it from the Or dedicate his beauty to the sun."

“universal,” to which it belongs, gives it all

the value of a vivid colour in a picture, perJohnson, as we have already seen, considered this comedy to be wanting in di- fectly distinct, but also completely harversity of character." The action, it must be observed, is mainly sustained by Proteus

this wonderful mastery over the whole world and Valentine, and by Julia and Silvia ; the result of continued experiment. In bis

of materials for poetical construction was and the conduct of the plot is relieved by characters

, especially

, we see the gradual the familiar scenes in which Speed and

growth of this extraordinary power, as Launce appear. The other actors are very clearly as we perceive the differences besubordinate, and we scarcely demand any

tween bis early and his matured forms of great diversity of character amongst them ; but it seems to us, with regard to Proteus expression. But it is evident to us, that, in

his very earliest delineations of character, and Valentine, Julia and Silvia, Speed and

he had conceived the principle which was Launce, that the characters are exhibited,

to be developed in "his splendid pictureas it were

, in pairs, upon a principle of very gallery.” In the comedy before us, Valendefined though delicate contrast. We will

tine and Proteus are the “two gentlemen' endeavour to point out these somewhat nice

-Julia and Silvia the two ladies " beloved” distinctions. Coleridge says, “It is Shakspere's peculiar servants. And yet how different is the one

- Speed and Launce the two "clownish" excellence, that, throughout the whole of

from the other of the same class! Proteus, his splendid picture gallery (the reader will

who is first presented to us as a lover, is excuse the acknowledged inadequacy of this metaphor), we find individuality everywhere, lle is “a votary to fond desire ;” but he

evidently a very cold and calculating one. —mere portrait nowhere. In all his various characters we still feel ourselves communing

complains of his mistress that she has mewith the same nature, which is everywhere

tamorphosed himpresent as the vegetable sap in the branches,

Made me neglect my studies—lose my time." sprays, leaves, buds, blossoms, and fruits, IIe ventures, however, to write to Julia ; their shapes, tastes, and odours. Speaking and when he has her answer, “her oath for of the effect, that is, his works themselves, love, her honour's pawn,” he immediately we may define the excellence of their me

takes the most prudent view of their posithod as consisting in that just proportion, tion :that union and interpenetration of the uni

“Oh that our fathers would applaud our loves !" versal and the particular, which must ever pervade all works of decided genius and But he has not decision enough to demand true science.”* Nothing can be more just this approbation :and more happy than this definition of the

" I feard to show my father Julia's letter, distinctive quality of Shakspere's works,-a Lest he should take exceptions to my love." quality which puts them so immeasurably above all other works, --“the union and

IIe parts with his mistress in a very formal interpenetration of the universal and the and well-behaved style ;—they exchange

rings, but Julia has first offered "this re* The Friend.' 3rd edit. 1837, vol.in. p. 121. membrance” for her sake ;- he makes a

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