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mother. But she is surrounded with a third evil,
"A father cruel, and a step-dame false,
A foolish suitor to a wedded lady." Worse, however, even than these, her honour is to be assailed, her character vilified, by a subtle stranger; who, perhaps more in sport than in malice, has resolved to win a paltry wager by the sacrifice of her happiness and that of her husband. What has she to oppose to all this complication of violence and cunning? Her perfect purity-her entire simplicity-her freedom from everything that is selfish-the strength only of her affections. The scene between Iachimo and Imogen is a contest of innocence with guile, most profoundly affecting, in spite of the few coarsenesses that were perhaps unavoidable, and which were not considered offensive in Shakspere's day. The supreme beauty of Imogen's character soars triumphantly out of the impure mist which is around her; and not the least part of that beauty is her ready forgiveness of her assailant, briefly and flutteringly expressed, however, when he relies upon the possibility of deceiving her through her affections :
"O happy Leonatus! I may say:
The credit that thy lady hath of thee Deserves thy trust; and thy most perfect goodness
Her assured credit!"
This is the First Act; and, if we mistake not the object of Shakspere, these opening scenes exhibit one of the most confiding and gentle of human beings, assailed on every side by a determination of purpose, whether in the shape of violence, wickedness, or folly, against which, under ordinary circumstances, innocence may be supposed to be an insufficient shield. But the very helplessness of Imogen is her protection. In the exquisite Second Scene of the Second Act, the perfect purity of Imogen, as interpreted by Shakspere, has converted what would have been a most dangerous situation in the hands of another poet-Fletcher, for example-into one of the most refined delicacy:
""T is her breathing that Perfumes the chamber thus."
The immediate danger is passed; but there is a new danger approaching. The will of her unhappy husband, deceived into madness, is to be added to the evils which she has already received from violence and selfishness. Posthumus, intending to destroy her, writes, "Take notice that I am in Cambria, at Milford-Haven; what your own love will out of this advise you, follow." She does follow her own love;-she has no other guide but the strength of her affections; that strength makes her hardy and fearless of consequences. It is the one duty, as well as the one pleasure, of her existence. How is that affection requited? Pisanio places in her hand, when they have reached the deepest solitude of the mountains, that letter by which he is commanded to take away her life. One passing thought of herself—one faint reproach of her husband, and she submits to the fate which is prepared for
"Come, fellow, be thou honest: Do thou thy master's bidding: When thou see'st him,
A little witness my obedience: Look!
But her truth and innocence have already subdued the will of the sworn servant of her husband. He comforts her, but he necessarily leaves her in the wilderness. The spells of evil wills are still around her:
"My noble mistress,
Here is a box: I had it from the queen."
Perhaps there is nothing in Shakspere more beautifully managed,-more touching in its romance, more essentially true to nature,than the scene between Imogen and her unknown brothers. The gentleness, the grace, the "gr`ef and patience," of the helpless Fidele, pa ducing at once the deepest reverence and affection in the bold and daring mountaineers, still carry forward the character of Imogen under the same aspects. Belarius has beautifully described the bro
"They are as gentle
As zephyrs, blowing below the violet,
Not wagging his sweet head: and yet, as rough,
Their royal blood enchafed, as the rud'st wind, That by the top doth take the mountain pine, And make him stoop to the vale."
It was in their gentleness that Imogen found a support for her gentleness;—it was in their roughness that the roughness of Cloten met its punishment. Imogen is still saved from the dangers with which craft and violence have surrounded her. When she swallows the supposed medicine of the queen, we know beforehand that the evil intentions of her step-mother have been counteracted by the benevolent intentions of the physician :"I do know her spirit, And will not trust one of her malice with A drug of such damn'd nature."
"The bird is dead;" she was sick, and we almost fear that the words of the dirge are true:
"Fear no more the frown o' the great,
Thou art pass'd the tyrant's stroke, But she awakes, and she has still to endure the last and the worst evil-her husband, in her apprehension, lies dead before her. She has no wrongs to think of "O my lord, my lord," is all, in connexion with Posthumus, that escapes amidst her tears. The beauty and innocence which saved her from Iachimo, -which conquered Pisanio,-which won the wild hunters, commend her to the Roman general—she is at once protected. But she has holy duties still to perform :
Had lived to put on this; so had you saved The noble Imogen to repent; and struck Me, wretch, more worth your vengeance." In the prison scene his spirit is again united with hers:"O Imogen,
I'll speak to thee in silence. The contest we now feel is over between the selfish and the unselfish, the crafty and the simple, the proud and the meek, the violent and the gentle.
It is scarcely within our purpose to follow the unravelling of the incidents in the concluding scene. Steevens has worthily endeavoured to make amends for the injustice of the criticism which 'Cymbeline' has received from his associate commentator :"Let those who talk so confidently about the skill of Shakspeare's contemporary, Jonson, point out the conclusion of any one of his plays which is wrought with more artifice, and yet a less degree of dramatic violence, than this. In the scene before us, all the surviving characters are assembled; and at the expense of whatever incongruity the former events may have been produced, perhaps little can be discovered on this occasion to offend the most scrupulous advocate for regularity: and, I think, as little is found wanting to satisfy the spectator by a catastrophe which is intricate without
"I'll follow, sir. But, first, an 't please the confusion, and not more rich in ornament
I'll hide my master from the flies, as deep
And on it said a century of prayers,
It is the unconquerable affection of Imogen which makes us pity Posthumus even while we blame him for the rash exercise of his revengeful will. But in his deep repentance we more than pity him. We see only
than in nature."
The conclusion of 'Cymbeline' has been lauded because it is consistent with poetical justice. Those who adopt this species of reasoning look very imperfectly upon the course of real events in the moral world. It is permitted, for inscrutable purposes, that the innocent should sometimes fall before the wicked, and the noble be subjected to the base. In the same way, it is sometimes in the course of events that the pure and the gentle should triumph over deceit and outrage. The perishing of Desdemona is as true as the safety of Imogen; and the poetical
truth involves as high a moral in the one as in the other. That Shakspere's notion of poetical justice was not the hackneyed notion of an intolerant age, reflected even by a Boccaccio, is shown by the difference in the lot of the offender in the Italian tale and the lot of Iachimo. The Ambrogiolo of the novelist, who slanders a virtuous lady for the gain of a wager, is fastened to a stake, smeared with honey, and left to be devoured by flies and locusts. The close of our dramatist's story is perfect Shakspere:
"Post. Speak, Iachimo; I had you down, and might
superior genius who commands both Prospero and Ariel. But the time was approaching when the potent sorcerer was to break his staff, and to bury it fathoms in the ocean,
THIS comedy stands the first in the folio | Shakspere himself is Prospero, or rather the collection of 1623, in which edition it was originally printed. In the entry upon the Stationers' registers of November the 8th, 1623, claiming for the booksellers Blount and Jaggard such plays of Shakspere as were not formerly entered to other men," it also is the first in order. The original text is printed with singular correctness.
A very general belief has always prevailed that 'The Tempest' was the last of Shakspere's works. We are inclined to think that this belief was rather a matter of feeling than of judgment. Mr. Campbell has put the feeling very elegantly:"The Tempest' has a sort of sacredness as the last work of a mighty workman. Shakspere, as if conscious that it would be his last, and as if inspired to typify himself, has made his hero a natural, a dignified, and benevolent magician, who could conjure up spirits from the vasty deep, and command supernatural agency by the most seemingly natural and simple means. And this final play of our poet has magic indeed; for, what can be simpler in language than the courtship of Ferdinand and Miranda, and yet what can be more magical than the sympathy with which it subdues us? Here
'Deeper than did ever plummet sound.' That staff has never been, and never will be, recovered." But this feeling, pretty and fanciful as it is, is certainly somewhat deceptive. It is not borne out by the internal evidence of the play itself. Shakspere never could have contemplated, in health and intellectual vigour, any abandonment of that occupation which constituted his happiness and glory. We have no doubt that he wrote on till the hour of his last illness. His later plays are unquestionably those in which the mighty intellect is more tasked than the unbounded fancy. His later plays, as we believe, present the philosophical and historical aspect of human affairs rather than the passionate and the imaginative. Roman historical plays are, as it appears to us, at the end of his career, as the English historical plays are at the beginning. Nothing can be more different than the principle of art upon which the 'Henry VI.' and the
'Antony and Cleopatra' are constructed. The Roman plays denote, we think, the growth of an intellect during five-and-twenty years. The Tempest' does not present the characteristics of the latest plays. It has the playfulness and beauty of the comedies, mingled with the higher notes of passionate and solemn thought which distinguished the great tragedies. It is essentially, too, written wholly with reference to the stage, at a period when an Ariel could be presented to an imaginative audience without the prosaic encumbrance of wings. The later plays, such as 'Troilus and Cressida,' and the three Roman subjects, are certainly written without any very strong regard to dramatic effect. They are noble acting plays, especially 'Julius Cæsar' and 'Coriolanus;' but even in these the poet appears to have poured himself forth with a philosophical mastery of the great principles by which men are held in the social state, without being very solicitous as to the favourable reception of his opinions by the mixed audiences of the days of James I. The 'Antony and Cleopatra' is still more remarkable for its surpassing historical truth-not the mere truth of chronological exactness, but that truth which is evolved out of the power of making the past present and real, through the marvellous felicity of knowing and representing how individuals and masses of men must have acted under circumstances which are only assimilated to the circumstances of modern times by the fact that all the great principles and motives of human action are essentially the same in every age and in every condition of civilization. The plays that we have mentioned must have been the result of very profound thought and very accurate investigation. The characters of the 'Troilus and Cressida' are purposely Gothicised. An episode of "the tale of Troy divine" is seized upon, to be divested of its romantic attributes, and to be presented with all the bold colouring of a master regardless of minute proprieties of costume, but producing the most powerful and harmonious effect through the universal truth of his delineations. On the contrary, the Roman plays are perfect in costume. We do not believe
that there are any productions of the human mind in existence, ancient or modern, which can give us so complete a notion of what Roman life was under its great general aspects. This was the effect, not only of his instinctive wisdom, but of that leisure for profound inquiry and extensive investiga tion which Shakspere possessed in the latter years of his life. We cannot bring ourselves to believe that 'The Tempest' belonged to the latest period. Ulrici has said "The Tempest' is the completing companion-piece of the 'Winter's Tale' and 'A MidsummerNight's Dream."" The Midsummer-Night's Dream' was printed in 1600;—it was probably written some five or six years previous. The 'Winter's Tale' was acted in 1611. From the 'Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels at Court,' edited by Mr. Peter Cunningham, we learn that on Hallowmas Night (November 1), 1611, was presented at Whitehall, before the King's Majesty, a play called 'The Tempest.' Four nights afterwards the 'Winter's Tale' was also presented. The Winter's Tale' appears to us to bear marks of a later composition than 'The Tempest.' separate them by any very wide interval: more especially we cannot agree with Mr. Hunter, who has brought great learning to an investigation of all the points connected with 'The Tempest,' that this play, “instead of being the latest work of this great master, is in reality one of the earliest, nearly the first in time, as the first in place, of the dramas which are wholly his." The difficulty of settling the chronology of some of Shakspere's plays by internal evidence is very much increased by the circumstance that some of them must be regarded as early performances that have come down to us with the large additions and corrections of maturer years. For example: 'Pericles' was, it is probable, produced as a novelty in 1608, or not long before. There are portions of that play which we think no one could have written but the mature Shakspere; mixed up with other portions which indicate, not so much immature powers as the treatment of a story in the spirit of the oldest dramas. So it is with Cymbeline;' and, to
But we are not disposed to
a certain extent, with the Winter's Tale.' The probability is, that these plays were produced in their present form soon after the period of Shakspere's quitting the stage about 1603; and perhaps before the production of Macbeth,' 'Troilus and Cressida,' 'Henry VIII.,' and the Roman plays. "The Tempest' appears to us to belong to the same cycle. The opinion which we here express is not inconsistent with a belief that Mr. Hunter has brought forward several curious facts to render it highly probable that it was produced in 1596. But the aggregate evidence, as we think, outweighs these curious facts.
'The Tempest' is not included by name in the list of plays ascribed to Shakspere by Francis Meres in 1599. Mr. Hunter says that it was included, under the name of 'Love's Labour Won.' We have endeavoured to show, in the Chapter on 'All's Well that Ends Well,' not only that the comedy bearing that name had the highest pretension to the title of 'Love's Labour Won,' but that 'The Tempest' had no such pretension. We do not agree that the comedy called "The Tempest,' when it was first printed, bore the title, either as a leading or secondary title, when Meres published his list in 1599, of 'Love's Labour Won.' We believe that it
was always called 'The Tempest;' and that, looking at its striking fable, and its beauty of characterization and language, it would undoubtedly have been mentioned by Meres if it had existed in 1599.
The 'Bartholomew Fair' of Ben Jonson was produced at the Hope Theatre in 1614; and it was performed by "the Lady Elizabeth's servants." It is stated by Malone that "it appears from MSS. of Mr. Vertue that 'The Tempest' was acted by John Heminge and the rest of the King's company, before Prince Charles, the Lady Elizabeth, and the Prince Palatine Elector, in the beginning of the year 1613." This circumstance gives some warrant to the belief of the commentators that a passage in the Induction to 'Bartholomew Fair' is a sarcasm upon Shakspere:-" If there be never a servant-monster in the fair, who can help it, he says, nor a nest of antiques? He is loth to
make nature afraid in his plays, like those that beget tales, tempests, and such-like drolleries." Gifford has contended, arguing against the disposition of the commentators to charge Jonson with malignity, that the expressions servant-monster, and tales, tempests, and such-like drolleries, had reference to the popular puppet-shows which were especially called drolleries. The passage, however, still looks to us like a sly, though not ill-natured, allusion to Shakspere's Caliban, and his 'Winter's Tale,' and 'Tempest,' which were then popular acting plays. Mr. Hunter believes that in this passage Jonson does pointedly direct his satire against 'The Tempest;' but he also maintains that Jonson does, in the same way, satirize 'The Tempest' in 1596, in the Prologue to 'Every Man in his Humour:'
"He rather prays you will be pleased to see One such to-day, as other plays should be; Where neither chorus wafts you o'er the seas, Nor creaking throne comes down the boys to please:
Nor nimble squib is seen to make afeard
It is scarcely probable, if Jonson had meant to allude to The Tempest,' either in the Prologue or the Induction, that he would have been so wanting in materials for his dislike of the romantic drama in general as to select the same play for attack in works separated by an interval of eighteen years. The "creaking throne" is, according to Mr. Hunter, the throne of Juno as she descends, in the mask; the "nimble squib" is the lightning, and the "tempestuous drum" the thunder, of the first scene. Mr. Hunter adds that the last line of the Prologue,—
'You that have so graced monsters may like men,"
must allude to Caliban. Surely the term monsters, as opposed to men, must be a general designation of what Jonson believed to be unnatural in the romantic drama, as contrasted with the "image of the times" in comedy. But, if we must have real monsters,