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"So play the foolish throngs with one that swoons; Come all to help him, and so stop the air By which he should revive." Malone says of this coincidence, "That 'Measure for Measure' was written before 1607 may be fairly concluded from the following passage in a poem published in that year, which we have good ground to believe was copied from a similar thought in this play, as the author, at the end of his piece, professes a personal regard for Shakspeare, and highly praises his 'Venus and Adonis.'"* The other arguments of Malone as to the date of this play, which he assigns to 1603, have reference to public circumstances. Chalmers contends for the date of 1604.

Conjectures such as these are too often laborious trifling. But, for once, they are pretty nearly borne out by incontrovertible testimony. The perseverance of Mr. Peter Cunningham has been rewarded by discovering in the Audit Office certain passages in the original Office Books of the Masters and Yeomen of the Revels, which fix the date of the representation at Court of some of Shakspere's plays. The Office Book shows that 'Measure for Measure' was presented at Court by the King's Players in 1604.

The Promos and Cassandra' of George Whetstone, printed in 1578, but not acted, was, there can be no doubt, the foundation upon which Shakspere built his 'Measure for Measure.' Whetstone tells us in a subsequent work that he constructed his play upon a novel of Giraldi Cinthio, of which he gives us a translation; observing, "This history, for rareness thereof, is livelily set out in a comedy by the reporter of the work, but yet never presented upon stage."+

The performance of Whetstone, as might be expected in a drama of that date, is feeble and monotonous, not informed with any real dramatic power, drawling or bombastic in its tragic parts, extravagant in its comic. It is scarcely necessary to offer to our readers any parallel examples of the modes in which Whetstone and Shakspere have treated the same incidents.

* Chronological Order,' p. 387.

" Heptameron of Civil Discourses,' 1582.

"Look, the unfolding star calls up the shepherd." In the midst of the most business-like and familiar directions occur these eight words of the highest poetry. By a touch almost magical Shakspere takes us in an instant out of that dark prison, where we have been surrounded with crime and suffering, to make us see the morning star bright over the hills, and hear the tinkle of the sheep-bell in the folds, and picture the shepherd bidding the flock go forth to pasture, before the sun has lighted up the dewy lawns. In the same way, throughout this very extraordinary drama, in which the whole world is represented as one great prison-house, full of passion, and ignorance, and sorrow, we have glimpses every now and then of something beyond, where there shall be no alternations of mildness and severity, but a condition of equal justice, serene as the valley under "the unfolding star," and about to rejoice in the dayspring.

The little passage which we have quoted is one amongst the numberless poetical gems which are scattered up and down this comedy with a profusion such as only belongs to one poet. It has been said of Shakspere, "He is the text for the moralist and the philosopher. His bright wit is cut out into little stars; his solid masses of knowledge are meted out in morsels and proverbs; and, thus distributed, there is scarcely a corner which he does not illuminate, or a cottage which he does not enrich."* This is by no means his highest praise, and his 'Beauties' give a very imperfect idea of his attributes; but certainly no other man ever wrote single sentences that to such an extent have now become mixed up with the habits of thought of millions of human beings. This play appears to us especially glittering with these "little stars." We cannot open a scene in which we do not encounter some passage that has set us thinking at some moment of our lives. Of such distinct passages, which the memory never parts from, the following will be recognised by all as familiar friends :"Heaven doth with us as we with torches do; Not light them for themselves: for if our virtues

* Retrospective Review,' vol. vii. p. 381.

Did not go forth of us, 't were all alike As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touch'd

But to fine issues."

"Reason thus with life:

If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing

Barnardine, one of the most extraordinary of Shakspere's creations, will produce little beyond disgust in the casual reader. But these have, nevertheless, not crept into this drama by accident-certainly not from the desire" to make the unskilful laugh." Per

That none but fools would keep a breath haps the effect of their introduction, coupled

thou art,

(Servile to all the skiey influences,)

with the general subject of the dramatic
action, is to render the entire comedy not
"This play,

That dost this habitation, where thou keep'st, pleasurable. Coleridge says,
Hourly afflict."

"Merciful heaven!

which is Shakspeare's throughout, is to me the most painful-say, rather, the only pain

Thou rather, with thy sharp and sulphurous ful-part of his genuine works." This is a bolt,

Splitt'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak,
Than the soft myrtle: But man, proud man!
Dress'd in a little brief authority;
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence,-like an angry apc,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven,
As make the angels weep."

"The sense of death is most in apprehension;
And the poor beetle, that we tread upon,
In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great
As when a giant dies."

We select these, contrary to our usual practice of not separating the parts from the whole, for the purpose of pointing out that there is something deeper in them than the power of expressing a moral observation strikingly and poetically. They are imbued with the writer's philosophy. They form a part of the system upon which the play is written. But, opposed to passages like these, there are many single sentences scattered through this drama which, so far from dwelling on with pleasure, we hurry past-which we like not to look upon again—which appear to be mere grossnesses. They are, nevertheless, an integral portion of the dramathey also form part of the system upon which the play is written. What is true of single passages is true of single scenes. Those between Isabella and Angelo, and Isabella and Claudio, are unsurpassed in the Shaksperean drama, for force, and beauty, and the delicate management of a difficult subject. But there are other scenes which appear simply revolting, such as those in which the Clown is conspicuous; and even

strong opinion; and, upon the whole, a just one. But it requires explanation.

The general outline of the story upon which Measure for Measure' is founded is presented to us in such different forms, and with reference to such distinct times and persons, that, whether historically true or not, we can have no doubt of its universal interest. It is told of an officer of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy; of Oliver le Diable, the wicked favourite of Louis XI. ; of Colonel Kirke, in our own country; of a captain of the Duke of Ferrara. In all these cases an unhappy woman sacrifices her own honour for the promised safety of one she loves; and in all, with the exception of the case of Colonel Kirke, the abuser of authority is punished with death. Whatever interest may attach to the narrative of such an event, it is manifest that the dramatic conduct of such a story is full of difficulty, especially in a scrupulous age. But the public opinion, which, in this particular, would operate upon a dramatist in our own day, would not affect a writer for the stage in the times of Elizabeth and James; and, in point of fact, plots far more offensive became the subject of very popular dramas long after the times of Shakspere. It appears to us that, adopting such a subject in its general bearings, he has managed it with uncommon adroitness by his deviations from the accustomed story. By introducing a contrivance by which the heroine is not sacrificed, he preserves our respect for her, which would be involuntarily lost if she fell, even though against her own will; and by this management he is also enabled to spare

the great offender without an unbearable violation of our sense of justice. But there was a higher aim in this even than the endeavour to produce a great dramatic effect.

It may be convenient if we first regard this comedy as a work of art, constructed with reference to the production of such dramatic effect. Without referring, then, to the peculiar character of the Duke, and his secret objects in delegating "mercy and mortality" to Angelo, we have to look only

at the sudden and severe sentence which the

fault of Claudio has called down upon him, and at the circumstances which arise out of the intervention of Isabella to procure a remission of his punishment. This is the simple view of the matter which we find in the novel of Cinthio, in Whetstone's play of 'Promos and Cassandra,' and in the pseudohistorical stories which deal with the same popular legend. It is in this point of view that we may consider the character of Isabella, acting upon one single and direct principle, without reference to the machinery of which she afterwards forms a part for carrying out the complicated management of the Duke. She is a being separated from all the evil influences-criminal, or ignorant, or weak-by which she is surrounded. In the eyes of the habitual profligate with whom she comes in contact she is

a thing enskied and sainted."

In the eyes of the tempter her purity is her most fearful charm. To her a more strict restraint than is laid upon the votaries of St. Clare would be a benefit and not an evil. To the subjection of all rebellious thoughts in herself, to the cultivation of the spiritual parts of her nature, is she dedicated. She weeps for her brother; but she shrinks from the thought of going out of her own peculiar region to become his advocate:

"Alas! what poor

Ability 's in me to do him good?"

When she has taken her resolution, she is still doubtful of herself:

"I'll see what I can do."

shrinking and half ashamed is her first supplication to Angelo. She is as severe in her abstract view of guilt as the stern deputy himself:

"There is a vice that most I do abhor, And most desire should meet the blow of justice."

At the first repulse she is abashed and would retire. She is the cloistress, to whom semblance of excusing it; but she gradually it appears that to plead for guilt has the recollects that mercy, as well as justice, is warms into sympathy and earnestness. She amongst the divine attributes. She first ventures upon the enunciation of a general truth:

"No ceremony that to great ones 'longs,

Not the king's crown, nor the deputed sword, The marshal's truncheon, nor the judge's robe, Become them with one half so good a grace As mercy does."

But this general truth leads her to the declaration of the higher truth which she has most studied :—

"Alas! alas!

Why, all the souls that were, were forfeit once; And He that might the vantage best have took Found out the remedy: How would you be, If He, which is the top of judgment, should But judge you as you are? O, think on that; And mercy then will breathe within your lips, Like man new made."

From this moment she is self-possessed; and she stands before the organ of power pouring forth an impassioned eloquence with all the authority of a heavenly messenger. Then she is bold, even to the point of attacking the self-consciousness of the individual judge:

"Go to your bosom;

Knock there; and ask your heart, what it doth know

That 's like my brother's fault if it confess A natural guiltiness, such as is his,

Let it not sound a thought upon your tongue Against my brother's life."

And at last, when she believes he will relent, she offers him no thanks, she supplicates him with no tears; but she promises him the re

Few and timid are her words to Lucio; ward of

"True prayers, That shall be up at heaven, and enter there, Ere sunrise."

The foundation of Isabella's character is religion. In the second scene with Angelo the same spirit breathes in every line. Her humility

"Let me be ignorant, and in nothing good,
But graciously to know I am no better;"-
her purity, which cannot understand the ob-
lique purposes of the corrupt deputy;-her
martyr-like determination when the hateful
alternative is proposed to her-

"Were I under the terms of death,

The impression of keen whips I'd wear as rubies,

And strip myself to death, as to a bed

The alter

constituted and so educated?
native was not for innocence to welcome
death, but for purity to be reconciled to
pollution. A lady, whose work Dr. Johnson
has recommended as elegantly illustrating
Shakspere's departures from the novel of
Cinthio, has been pleased to call Isabella
"a vixen" and "a prude." It is satis-
factory that, if the last age had its Lenox,
who understood as little of her own sex as
she did of Shakspere, the present has its
Jameson. It was truly said by the editors
of the first folio, addressing their readers,
"if then you do not like, surely you are
in some manifest danger not to understand
him." Mrs. Lenox set out upon the prin-
ciple of depreciating Shakspere, and she
therefore utters absurdities such as these.

That longing had been sick for, ere I'd Mrs. Jameson begins by reverencing him,


her simplicity, that believes for a moment
that virtue has only to denounce wickedness
to procure its fall;-her confidence in her
brother's "mind of honour;"all these are
the results of the same mental discipline.
Most fearfully is her endurance tried, when
she has to tell Claudio upon what terms his
life may be spared. The unhappy man has
calmly listened to the philosophical homily
of the Duke, in which he finds what is really
somewhat difficult to find in such general
exhortations to patience and fortitude-
"To sue to live, I find I seek to die;
And seeking death find life."

He is to be sorely tempted; and his sister
knows that he wants the one sustaining
power which can resist temptation :—

"O, I do fear thee, Claudio; and I quake,
Lest thou a feverous life shouldst entertain,
And six or seven winters more respect
Than a perpetual honour."

Is her burst of passion, when her fears be-
come true, and he utters the sophistry—

"What sin you do to save a brother's life, Nature dispenses with the deed so far, That it becomes a virtue,"—

is that terrible indignation, "take my defiance," unnatural or unjust in a mind so

and she therefore habitually gives us criticism as true and as beautiful as that which we now extract:

"Nor should we fail to remark the deeper interest which is thrown round Isabella, by rather than exhibited, in the progress of the one part of her character, which is betrayed, action; and for which we are not at first prepared, though it is so perfectly natural. It is the strong under-current of passion and enthusiasm flowing beneath this calm and saintly self-possession; it is the capacity for high feeling, and generous and strong indignation, veiled beneath the sweet austere composure of the religious recluse, which, by the very force of contrast, powerfully impress the imagination. As we see in real life that where, from some external or habitual cause, a strong control is exercised over naturally quick feelings and an impetuous temper, they display themselves with a proportionate vehemence when that restraint is removed; so the very violence with which her passions burst forth, when opposed or under the influence of strong excitement, is admirably characteristic."

The leading idea, then, of the character of Isabella, is that of one who abides the direst temptation which can be presented to a youthful, innocent, unsuspecting, and affectionate woman-the temptation of saving the life of one most dear, by submitting to a

shame which the sophistry of self-love might in the Duke's hands, as well as in the invenrepresent as scarcely criminal. It is manifest tion; that all other writers who have treated the subject have conceived that the temptation could not be resisted. Shakspere alone has confidence enough in female virtue to make Isabella never for a moment even doubt of her proper course. But he has based this virtue, most unquestionably, upon the very highest principle upon which any virtue can be built. The character of Angelo is the antagonist to that of Isabella. In a city of licentiousness he is

"A man of stricture and firm abstinence." He is


Stands at a guard with envy; scarce confesses
That his blood flows."

He is one who

"Doth rebate and blunt his natural edge With profits of the mind, study and fast." But he wanted the one sustaining principle by which Isabella was upheld. Ulrici has sketched his character vigorously and truly: -"Angelo, who makes profession of a rigorous moral purity, boasts continually of his virtue, urges chastisement and severity, and inexorably persecutes sin and weakness, -who, in fact, has also the will to be what he seems, even he falls from his arrogant height, in a far worse manner, into the same crime that, contrary to his pledged word, he would punish with the full severity of the law. Once subdued by human weakness, he becomes the basest hypocrite and deceiver. The vain self-trusting virtue shows itself in him in its thorough weakness and inanity."

After Shakspere had conceived the character of Isabella, and in that conception had made it certain that her virtue must pass unscathed through the fire, he had to contrive a series of incidents by which the catastrophe should proceed onward through all the stages of Angelo's guilt of intention, and terminate in his final exposure. Mr. Hallam says, "There is great skill in the invention of Mariana, and without this the story could not have anything like a satisfactory termination." But there is great skill also in the management of the incident

and this is produced by the wonderful propriety with which the character of the Duke is drawn. He is described by Hazlitt as a very imposing and mysterious stage character, absorbed in his own plots and gravity. This is said depreciatingly. But it is precisely this sort of character that Shakspere meant to put in action. Chalmers has a random hit, which comes, we think, something near the truth. "The commentators seem not to have remarked that the character of the Duke is a very accurate delineation of that of King James." James was a pedant, and the Duke is a philosopher; but there is the same desire in each to get behind the curtain and pull the strings which move the puppets. We are not sure that Angelo's flattery did not save him, as much as Isabella's intercession:

"O my dread lord,

I should be guiltier than my guiltiness,
To think I can be undiscernible,

When I perceive your grace, like power di


Hath look'd upon my passes."

As a ruler of men the Duke is weak, and he

knows his own weakness:


It rested in your grace To unloose this tied-up justice when you pleased:

And it in you more dreadful would have

Than in lord Angelo.
Duke. I do fear, too dreadful:
Sith 't was my fault to give the people scope,
"T would be my tyranny to strike and gall

For what I bid them do."

And yet he does really strike and gall them through another; but he saves himself the labour and the slander.

And here, then, as it appears to us, we have a key to the purpose of the poet in the introduction of what constitutes the most unpleasant portion of this play,—the exhibition of a very gross general profligacy. There is an atmosphere of impurity hanging like a dense fog over the city of the poet. The philosophical ruler, the saintly votaress, and the sanctimonious deputy, appear to be

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