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commonplace vow of constancy, whilst Julia Live here in heaven, and may look on her, rushes away in tears ;-he quits Verona for But Romeo may not." Milan, and has a new love at first sight the We are not wandering from our purpose of instant he sees Silvia. The mode in which contrasting Proteus and Valentine, by showhe sets about betraying his friend, and woo
ing that the character of Valentine is coming his new mistress, is eminently charac-pounded of some of the elements that we teristic of the calculating selfishness of his find in Romeo ; for the strong impulses of nature :
both these lovers are as much opposed as it "If I can check my erring love, I will; is possible to the subtle devices of Proteus. If not, to compass her I 'll use my skill." The confiding Valentine goes to his banish
ment with the cold comfort that Proteus He is of that very numerous class of men
gives him :who would always be virtuous, if virtue would accomplish their object as well as
“ Hope is a lover's staff; walk hence with that.” vice ;—who prefer truth to lying, when lying He is compelled to join the outlaws, but he is unnecessary ;-and who have a law of makes conditions with them that exhibit the justice in their own minds, which if they goodness of his nature ; and we hear no can observe they “ will ;” but “ if not,”-if more of him till the catastrophe, when his they find themselves poor erring mortals, traitorous friend is forgiven with the same which they infallibly do,—they think confiding generosity that has governed all “ Their stars are more in fault than they."
his intercourse with him. We have little
doubt of the incorrect sense in which the This Proteus is a very contemptible fellow, passage is usually received, in which he is who finally exhibits himself as a ruffian and supposed to give up Silvia to his false friend a coward, and is punished by the heaviest
--or, at any rate, of its unfinished nature. infliction that the generous Valentine could
But it is perfectly natural and probable bestow-his forgiveness. Generous, indeed, that he should receive Proteus again into his and most confiding, is our Valentine—a per confidence, upon his declaration of “hearty fect contrast to Proteus. In the first scene
sorrow,” and that he should do so upon he laughs at the passion of Proteus, as if he
principle :knew that it was alien to his nature; but, when he has become enamoured himself,
“Who by repentance is not satisfied,
Is nor of heaven, nor earth.” with what enthusiasm he proclaims his devotion !
It is, to our minds, quite delightful to find " Why, man, she is mine own; in this, which we consider amongst the earliAnd I as rich in having such a jewel
est of Shakspere's plays, that exhibition of As twenty seas, if all their sand were pearl.” the real Christian spirit of charity which, In this passionate admiration we have the more or less, pervades all his writings ; but germ of Romeo, and so also in the scene which, more than any other quality, has where Valentine is banished :
made some persons, who deem their own
morality as of a higher and purer order, cry “ And why not death, rather than living tor
out against them, as giving encouragement ment?"
to evil doers. We shall have frequent occaBut here is only a sketch of the strength of sion to speak of the noble lessons which a deep and all-absorbing passion. The whole Shakspere teaches dramatically (and not speech of Valentine upon his banishment is ccording to the childish devices of those forcible and elegant; but compare him with who would make the dramatist write a Romeo in the same condition :
"moral" at the end of five acts, upon the “ Heaven is here approved plan of a Fable in a spelling-book), Where Juliet lives; and every cat, and dog, and we therefore pass over, for the present, And little mouse, every unworthy thing, those profound critics who say " he has no
moral purpose in view.”* But there are serving of pardon, but that it would be insome who are not quite so pedantically wise consistent with the characters of the paras to affirm “he paid no attention to that doners that they should exercise their power retributive justice which, when human affairs with severity. Shakspere lived in an age are rightly understood, pervades them all,”+ when the vindictive passions were too frebut who yet think that Proteus ought to quently let loose by men of all sects and have been at least banished, or sent to the opinions,—and much too frequently in the galleys for a few years with the outlaws ; name of that religion which came to teach that Angelo, in 'Measure for Measure,' peace and good will. Is it to be objected to should have been hanged ; that Leontes, in him, then, that wherever he could he as* The Winter's Tale,' was not sufficiently serted the supremacy of charity and mercy; punished for his cruel jealousy by sixteen —that he taught men the "quality" of that years of sorrow and repentance ; — that blessed principle which Iachimo, in 'Cymbeline,' is not treated with
“ Droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven;"— poetical justice when Posthumus says,“ Kneel not to me :
that he proclaimed-no doubt to the annoyThe power that I have on you is to spare ance of all self-worshippers—that “the web you;”—
of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and and that Prospero is a very weak magician ill together ;"—and that he asked of those not to apply his power to a better purpose
who would be hard upon the wretched, “Use than only to give his wicked brother and every man after his desert, and who shall his followers a little passing punishment, 'scape whipping ?” We may be permitted weak indeed, when he has them in his hands, to believe that this large toleration had its to exclaim,
influence in an age of racks and gibbets ;
and we know not how much of this chari" Though with their high wrongs I am struck
table spirit may have come to the aid of the to the quick,
more authoritative and holier teaching of Yet with my nobler reason 'gainst my fury
the same principle,-forgotten even by the Do I take part: the rarer action is In virtue than in vengeance: they being
teachers, but gradually finding its way into penitent,
the heart of the multitude,- till human The sole drift of my purpose doth extend
punishments at length were compelled to be Not a frown further : go release them, Ariel.” subservient to other influences than those of
the angry passions, and the laws could only Not so thought Shakspere. He, that never
dare to ask for justice, but not for venrepresented crime as virtue, had the largest
geance. pity for the criminal. “He has never var
The generous, confiding, courageous, and nished over wild and bloodthirsty passions forgiving spirit of Valentine are well apwith a pleasing exterior — never clothed crime and want of principle with a false man.” In this praise are included all the
preciated by the Duke—“Thou art a gentleshow of greatness of soul :"I but, on the virtues which Shakspere desired to represent other hand, he has never made the criminal
in the character of Valentine ;—the absence a monster, and led us to flatter ourselves of which virtues he has also indicated in that he is not a man. It is as a man, sub- the selfish Proteus. The Duke adds," and ject to the same infirmities as all are who
well derived.” “Thou art a gentleman,” in are born of woman, that he represents Proteus, and Iachimo, and other of the lesser valled merit;" and thou hast the honours of
'-a gentleman in “thy unricriminals, as receiving pardon upon repent
ancestry—the further advantage of honourance. It is not so much that they are de
able progenitors. * Lardner's Cyclopædia, ' Literary and Scientific Men,' We have dwelt so long upon the contrasts vol. ii. p. 128.
in the characters of the “two gentlemen," | Ibid., vol. iil. p. 122. A. W. Schlegel, Black's trans., vol. Ii. p. 137.
Proteus and Valentine, that we may appear
to have forgotten our purpose of also tracing she, indeed, spiritedly avows her love for the distinctive peculiarities of the two ladies Valentine and her hatred for himself; nor “beloved.” Julia, in the sweetest feminine is there, in any of the slight distinctions tenderness, is entirely worthy of the poet of which we have pointed out, any real inJuliet and Imogen. Amidst her deep and feriority in her character to that of Julia. sustaining love she has all the playfulness She is only more under the influence of cirthat belongs to the true woman. When she cumstances. Julia, by her decision, subdues receives the letter of Proteus, the struggle the circumstances of her situation to her own between her affected indifference and her will. real disposition to cherish a deep affection is Turn we now to Speed and Launce, the exceedingly pretty. Then comes, and very two “clownish " servants of Valentine and quickly, the development of the change Proteus. which real love works,—the plighting her In a note introducing the first scene betroth with Proteus,—the sorrow for his ab- tween Speed and Proteus, Pope says, “This sence,—the flight to him,—the grief for his whole scene, like many others in these plays perjury,– the forgiveness. How full of (some of which I believe were written by heart and gentleness is all her conduct after Shakspere, and others interpolated by the she has discovered the inconstancy of Pro- players), is composed of the lowest and most teus! How beautiful an absence is there of trifling conceits, to be accounted for only by all upbraiding either of her faithless lover the gross taste of the age he lived in; populo or of his new mistress ! Of the one she says, ut placerent. I wish I had authority to leave
them out.” There are passages in Shakspere “ Because I love him, I must pity him;" I
which an editor would desire to leave out, if the other she describes, without a touch of he consulted only the standard of taste in his envy, as
own age; just as there are passages in Pope
which we now consider filthy and corrupting, “A virtuous gentlewoman, mild, and beautiful.”
which the wits and fine ladies of the court of Silvia is a character of much less intensity of Anne only regarded as playful and piquant. feeling. She plays with her accepted lover The scenes, however, in which Speed and as with a toy given to her for her amuse- Launce are prominent,—with the exception ment; she delights in a contest of words be- of a few obscure allusions, which will not be tween him and his rival Thurio ; she avows discovered unless a commentator points them she is betrothed to Valentine, when she re- out, and of one piece of plain speaking in proves Proteus for his perfidy, but she al- Launce, which is refinement itself when comlows Proteus to send for her picture, which pared with the classical works of the Dean of is, at ast, not the act of one who strongly St. Patrick's,—these scenes offer a remarkable felt and resented his treachery to his friend. instance of the reform which Shakspere was When she resolves to escape from her prison, enabled to effect in the conduct of the English she does not go forth to danger and difficulty stage, and which, without doubt, banished with the spirit of Julia,—“a true-devoted a great deal of what had been offensive to pilgrim,”—but she places herself under the good manners, as well as good taste. The protection of Eglamour (“ a very perfect “clown" or "fool” of the earlier English gentle knight," as Chaucer would have drama was introduced into every piece. He called him)
came on between the acts and sometimes in“For the ways are dangerous to pass."
terrupted even the scenes by his buffoonery.
Occasionally the author set down a few words She goes to her banished lover, but she flies for him to speak; but out of these he had from her father
to spin a monologue of doggrel verses created “To keep me from a most unholy match."
by his “extemporal wit.” The “Jeasts' of
Richard Tarleton, the most celebrated of When she encounters Proteus in the forest, these clowns, were published in 1611; and
fortunate it must have been for the morals Speed and Launce are both punsters; but of our ancestors that Shakspere constructed Speed is by far the more inveterate one. He dialogue for his “Clowns," and insisted on begins with a pun-my master “is shipp'd their adhering to it: “Let those that play already, and I have play'd the sheep (ship) your clowns speak no more than is set down in losing him.” The same play upon words for them.” The “ Clown" was the successor which the ship originates runs through the of the “Vice” of the old Moralities; and scene; and we are by no means sure that, he was the representative of the domestic if Shakspere made Verona a seaport in ig“ Jester” that flourished before and during norance (which we very much doubt),—if, the age of Shakspere. The “ clownish" like his own Hotspur, he had “forgot the servant was something intermediate between map,"—whether he would, at any time, have the privileged "fool” of the old drama and converted Valentine into a land-traveller, and the pert lackey of the later comedy. But he have lost his pun upon a better knowledge. originally stood in the place of the genuine In the scene before us, Speed establishes his “Clown;" and his “ conceits” are to be re- character for “a quick wit;” Launce, on the garded partly as a reflection of the manners contrary, very soon earns the reputation of of the most refined, whose wit, in a great “a mad-cap” and “an ass.” And yet Launce degree, consisted in a play upon words, and can pun as perseveringly as Speed. But he partly as a law of the established drama, can do something more. He can throw in which even Shakspere could not dispense
the most natural touches of humour amongst with, if he had desired so to do. But his his quibbles; and, indeed, he altogether forinstinctive knowledge of the value of his gets his quibbles when he is indulging his dramatic materials led him to retain the own peculiar vein.
That vein is unquesClowns” amongst other inheritances of the tionably drollery,—as Hazlitt has well deold stage; and who that has seen the use he scribed it,—the richest farcical drollery. has made of the “allowed fool” in Twelfth His descriptions of his leave-taking, while Night,' and 'As You Like It,' and 'All's Well “the dog all this while sheds not a tear,” that Ends Well,' and especially in 'Lear,'- and of the dog's misbehaviour when he thrust of the country clown in 'Love's Labour's Lost' “himself into the company of three or four and “The Merchant of Venice,'—and of the gentlemanlike dogs," are perfectly irresistible. “clownish” or witty servant in “The Two We must leave thee, Launce; but we leave Gentleman of Verona,' will regret that he thee with less regret, for thou hast worthy did not cast away what Pope has called successors. Thou wert among the first fruits, “low” and “trifling," determining to retain we think, of the creations of the greatest a machinery equally adapted to the relief of comic genius that the world has seen, and the tragic and the heightening of the comic, thou wilt endure for ever, with Bottom, and and entirely in keeping with what we now Malvolio, and Parolles, and Dogberry. Thou call the romantic drama,—an edifice of which wert conceived, perhaps, under that humble Shakspere found the scaffolding raised and roof at Stratford, to gaze upon which all nathe stone quarried, but which it was reserved tions have since sent forth their pilgrims ! for him alone to build up upon a plan in which Or, perhaps, when the young poet was, for the most apparently incongruous parts were the first time, left alone in the solitude of subjected to the laws of fitness and proportion, London, he looked back upon that shelter and wherein even the grotesque (like the grin- of his boyhood, and shadowed out his own ning heads in our fine Gothic cathedrals) was parting in thine, Launce! in harmony with the beautifuland the sublime.
THE COMEDY OF ERRORS.
“The Comedy of Errors' was clearly one of structure than the following in 'Love's Shakspere's very early plays. It was pro- Labour 's Lost:'bably untouched by its author after its first “And such barren plants are set before us, that production. We have here no existing sketch we thankful should be, to enable us to trace what he introduced, Which we of taste and feeling are, for those and what he corrected, in the maturity of parts that do fructify in us more than he.” his judgment. It was, we imagine, one of The latter line almost reminds us of Mrs. the pieces for which he would manifest little Harris's Petition,' which, according to Swift, solicitude after his genius was fully developed. “Humbly sheweth The play is amongst those mentioned by Meres
" That I went to warm myself in Lady Betty's in 1598. The only allusion in it which can be
chamber, because I was cold, taken to fix a date is one which is supposed
And I had in a purse seven pounds four shilto refer to the civil contests of France upon lings and sixpence, besides farthings, in the accession of Henry IV.
money and gold." We must depend, then, upon the internal The measure in "The Comedy of Errors' was evidence of this being a very early play. formed by Shakspere upon his rude predeThis evidence consists,
In some of these it is not only 1. In the great prevalence of that measure occasionally introduced, but constitutes the which was known to our language as early great mass of the dialogue. In 'Gammer as the time of Chaucer by the name of “rime Gurton's Needle,' for example, the doggrel dogerel.” This peculiarity is found only in
measure prevails throughout, as in the conthree of our author's plays,—in 'Love's La
cluding lines :bour's Lost,' in 'The Taming of the Shrew,'
“But now, my good masters, since we must be and in “The Comedy of Errors. But this
gone, measure was a distinguishing characteristic
And leave you behind us, here all alone, of the early English drama. It prevails very Since at our lasting ending thus merry we be, much more in this play than in 'Love's La- For Gammer Gurton's Needle's sake, let us bour's Lost:' for prose is here much more have a plaudytie." sparingly introduced.
The doggrel seems
The comedy of 'Ralph Roister Doister' is to stand half-way between prose and verse, composed in the same measure. Nor was it marking the distinction between the lan- in humorous performances alone that this guage of a work of art and that of ordinary structure of verse (which Shakspere always life, in the same way that the recitative
uses as a vehicle of fun) was introduced. does in a musical composition. It is to be InDamon and Pithias,' a serious play, which observed, too, in 'The Comedy of Errors,'
was probably produced about 1570, the senthat this measure is very carefully regulated tence of Dionysius is thus pronounced upon by somewhat strict laws:
Pithias : “We came into the world like brother and Pithias, seeing thou takest me at my word, brother,
take Damon to thee: And now let 's go hand in hand, not one be- For two months he is thine; unbind him; I fore another."
set him free;
Which time once expired, if he appear not This concluding passage, which is cast in the next day by noon, the same mould as the other similar verses
Without further delay thou shalt lose thy life, of the play, is much more regular in its and that full soon."