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of phrase and harshness of rhythm, which seems to me to stamp many passages as belonging to the epoch of MEASURE FOR MEASURE, or of LEAR. We miss, too, the gay and fanciful imagery which shows itself continually, alike amidst the passion and the moralizing of the previous comedies.
This sterner and more meditative cast is so predominant, that the whole play may be remarked as being conparatively of a gray and sober hue, uncoloured by those rainbow tints of fancy, or fiercely bright flashes of passion, that give such diversity of splendour to many other dramas. The reason of this cannot be that which Schlegel assigns, that “the glorious colours of fancy could not have been introduced into such a subject;" for it is not easy to find any reason, in the subject itself, why Helena's subdued, yet cherished and absorbing passion, might not have been clothed by Shakespeare in thoughts and words as tender as those of Imogen, as intense with passiouale beauty as those of Juliet. The only intelligible reason is, that such was not the prevailing mood of the author's mind at the time, nor congruous with the main objects on which he had fixed his attention—that the play was thrown into its present shape, and assumed its present expression, at a time when the author's moral and reflective faculty was more active and engrossing than his poetic fancy, or his dramatic imitative power.
The contrast of two different moods of thought and manners of expression, here mixed in the same piece, mis be evident to all who have made the shades and gradations of Shakespeare's varying and progressive taste a mind at all a subject of study. At any rate, the opinion jást expressed was formed before the writer learned, fro Mr. Collier's information, that "it was the opinion of Coleridge, an opinion which he first delivered in 1813. and again in 1818, though it is not found in his · Literary Remains,' that All's Well THAT ENDS Well, as it has come down to us, was written at two different, and rather distant periods of the Poet's life. He pointed out vers clearly two distinct styles, not only of thought, but of expression; and Professor Tieck, at a later date, adopted and enforced the same belief.” Whether Coleridge regarded the additions as belonging to the same period of to author's manner, to which it has been here assigned, I am unable to say. Tieck appears to ascribe to an earlier period, some of the darker and thought-burdened passages which I should assign to that later period, when the Poet's mind brooded habitually, in pity or in anger, over man's vices and misery. Still the contrast of diction and thought struck the acute German as much as it must do the student of his own native language.
Nevertheless, the changes of a great writer's habits of thought and choice of expression, however wide apart those changes may be, are yet, like the workings of other minds, subject to the revival of old associations and former mental habits, breaking in upon and mixing with those of after acquisition. To this principle I must refer sode few passages of exceeding beauty, which may possibly have been in the original sketch, but which I rather infer. from the diction and versification, to belong to the revision, though not in its general taste and spirit.
Such are those lines of intense beauty and feeling, when Helena breathes forth her hopeless passion :
It were all one,
and pleases herself in her fond imagination
to sit and draw
In our heart's table, etc. And again the passage in the third act, in which she pours forth her sorrows and takes upon herself the guilt of her husband's desertion, where the very exaggeration of imagery and language speak the truth of nature and passion.
Most readers would wish that this high empassioned poetry of sentiment, had been breathed throughout all that Helena utters; and the plot itself would authorize and might have prompted dialogue and soliloquy, as fervid and fanciful as any that even Juliet had uttered.
But this did not happen to accord with the author's temper and disposition at the time of his maturer labours upon this theme, nor with the object he had proposed to his own mind in the composition.
The purely dramatic spirit, the identification of the writer's own feelings with those of the personages and scenes he exhibits, had here given place to a moralizing thoughtfulness, so that the Poet himself became the expounder and commentator of the truths involved in his dramatic fable, instead of leaving the reader to extract them for him. self, from the vivid representation of human nature and passion.
In this play, he, throughout the whole, labours to impress on the audience a great and simple truth, too much forgotten at all times in the pride of life, but which in his own age and nation of strongly marked distinction and prejudices of birth and rank, must have been startling from its novelty and boldness. It is the great truth lying at the foundation of all real and practical social freedom, that moral and intellectual worth is the only solid ground of distinction between man and man. The graver part of his plot and dialogue is one continued rebuke of the harstness, injustice, and want of human sympathy of the rich and powerful toward the humble and dependant. Shakespeare, in his historical and more political dramas, has delineated the caprices of the mob as faithfully as the vices and crimes of the great, Coleridge and other critics have thence deduced the theory that he was in opinion “a philosophical aristocrat,” who reverenced rank and power, and regarded the vulgar with good-natured coptempt; a theory which is not only incongruous with the sympathy he everywhere expresses for man as man, and his indignant rebukes of the "superfluous and lust-dieted man—that will not see because he cannot feel;" but is directly contradicted in every scene of this comedy.
Burns himself, in an age of revolutions, did not pour forth his own spirit of independence more freely in his animating strain of
The rank is but the guinea stamp,
The man's the goud for a' that;
than Shakespeare inculcated, upon the subjects of the Tudors and Stuarts, over and over, alike in the groundwork of his fable, and in weighty apothegms, that
From lowest place when virtuous things proceed,
Is good, without a name; etc. He has, perhaps, as a poet, even sacrificed something of his dramatic interest to this purpose, by making the noble and accomplished Bertram inferior to the low-born Helena, in every truly honourable quality; so that most readers will concur in Jobuson's honest regret that “this man noble without generosity, and young without truth,” should be at last “ dismissed to happiness ;"--an impression which could have been prevented, by giving to the noble soldier a few redeeming touches of shame and penitence.
Besides this prominent and conspicuous moral lesson, other brief, sententious observations, filled with profound sense and truths humbling to human pride, are scattered through the drama, more in the shape of general reflection than as the utterance of individual emotion or sentiment, as is elsewhere the Poet's wont.
Paradoxical as the criticism may seem, the result of all this is that this is one of the least pleasing of the author's comedies, and yet one that does as much honour as any of his works to his mind and his heart.
The language approaches in many places to the style of MEASURE FOR MEASURE, as if much of it had been written in that season of gloom which imparted to the Poet's style something of the darkness that hung over his soul. In addition to these inherent difficulties, there are several indications of an imperfect revision, as if words and lines intended to be rejected, had been left in the manuscript, together with these written on the margin or interlined, for the purpose of being substituted for them. We have not the means afforded in several other plays where similar misprints have been found, of correcting them, by the collation of the old editions, as there is no other than that in the folio, which is less carefully printed than usual, not being even divided into scenes. From all these concurring causes, there are many passages of obscure or doubtful meaning, some of which would perhaps remain so, even if we had them as the author left them; while others are probably darkened by typographical errors. Some of these difficulties have been perfectly cleared up, by the ingenuity or antiquarian industry of the later commentators; as to others, we must be content with explanations and conjectural corrections, which are only probable until something more satisfactory can be presented.
SOURCE OF THE PLOT.
The story is drawn from Boccaccio’s “ Decameron," which was the great storehouse of romantic and humorous narrative for the poets and dramatists of his own and the succeeding age. But though it cannot well be doubted that Shakespeare, at the time when this play received its present form, could read Italian, and was probably well acquainted with the “Decameron,” as we know him to have been with the less attractive and less popular novels of Cinthio and Bandello; yet as this play seems to have been originally sketched in his younger days of authorship, when it is less likely that he had any knowledge of the Italian language, I agree with Dr. Farmer and others, that he probably used the very literal version of the tale contained in “ The Palace of Pleasure," by William Painter, of which the first volume was published in 1566, aud the second in 1567. In the “Decameron," it bears this title :—“Giglietta of Narborn cures the King of France of a fistula, (a painful swelling on the breast, as it is explained in the tale,) and in reward claims Beltramo of Rousillon, for her husband. He having married her by compulsion goes off in anger to Florence; there falling in love with a young lady, he cohabits with Giglietta, personating her. She bears him twin boys. In consequence of this she becomes dear to him, and he receives her as his wife.” The English version by Painter may be read in Collier's Shakespeare's Library. The Poet, says Mr. Collier, was only indebted to Boccaccio for the mere outline of his plot, as regards Helena, Bertram, the Widow, and Diana. “ All that belongs to the characters of the Countess, the Clown, and Parolles, and the comic business in which the last is engaged, were the invention of Shakespeare. The only namnes Boccaccio (and after him Painter) gives are Giglietta and Beltramo: the latter Shakespeare anglicised to Bertram, and he changed Giglietta to Helena, probably because he had already made Juliet the name of one of his heroines. Shakespeare much degrades the character of Bertram, towards the end of the drama, by the duplicity, and even falsehood, he makes him display: Coleridge (Literary Remains, ii. 121) was offended by the fact, that in act iji. scene 5, Helena, “Shakespeare's loveliest character," speaks that which is uutrue under the appearance of necessity; but Bertram is convicted by the King of telling a deliberate untruth, and of persisting in it, in the face of the whole court of France. In Boccaccio the winding up of the story occurs at Rousillon, as iu SHAKESPEARE, but the King is no party to the scene.”
He has moreover varied from his original, whether in Italian or English, in making Helena poor and dependant, instead of being as Boccaccio represents her, though fatherless, yet rich, and courted by many lovers acceptable to her friends. Could this variation have been for any other purpose than to make the story convey the moral instruction he has himself indicated, in the contrast of humble virtue, and high-born profligacy? It may be on the same account that the Poet keeps up Bertram's wayward and heartless falsehood to the last, whilst in the original the husband is overcome by his own better feelings, and receives and acknowledges his wife without compulsion.
KING OF FRANCE.
the Florentine War. Steward,
Servants to the COUNTESS OF R23IIICY
COUNTESS OF ROUSILLON, Mother to BEBIRAM.
Neighbours and Friends to the Wilow MARIANA,
Lords attending on the King: Officers, Soldiers, &c.
French and Florentine.
SCENE-Partly in FRANCE, and partly in TCSCAVY
Scene 1.–Rousillon. A Room in the Countess's || wanted, rather than lack it where there is such Palace.
Count. What hope is there of his majesty's Enter BERTRAM, the Countess of Rousillon,
amendment ? HELENA, and LaFeu, all in black.
Laf. He hath abandoned his physicians, madam ; Count. In delivering my son from me, I bury a under whose practices he hath persecuted time with second husband.
hope, and finds no other advantage in the process Ber. And I, in going, madam, weep o'er my but only the losing of hope by time. father's death anew; but I must attend his majes Count. This young gentlewoman had a father,ty's command, to whom I am now in ward, ever- O, that had! how sad a passage 'tis !—whose skill more in subjection.
was almost as great as his honesty; had it stretched Laf. You shall find of the king a husband, madam; so far, would have made nature immortal, and death --you, sir, a father. He that so generally is at all should have play for lack of work. Would, for the times good, must of necessity hold his virtue to king's sake, he were living! I think it would be you, whose worthiness would stir it up where it | the death of the king's disease.
Laf. How called you the man you speak of, That I should love a bright particular star, madam?
And think to wed it, he is so above me: Count. He was famous, sir, in his profession, and In his bright radiance and collateral light it was his great right to be so—Gerard de Narbon. Must I be comforted, not in his sphere.
Laf. He was excellent, indeed, madam: the king Th'ambition in my love thus plagues itself: very lately spoke of him, admiringly and mourn The hind that would be mated by the lion ingly. He was skilful enough to have lived still, if Must die for love. 'Twas pretty, though a plague. knowledge could be set up against mortality. To see him every hour; to sit and draw
Ber. What is it, my good lord, the king languishes His arched brows, his hawking eye, his curls, of?
In our heart's table; heart, too capable Laf. A fistula, my lord.
Of every line and trick of his sweet favour: Ber. I heard not of it before.
But now he's gone, and my idolatrous fancy Laf. I would it were not notorious.—Was this Must sanctify his relics. Who comes here? gentlewoman the daughter of Gerard de Narbon ? Count. His sole child, my lord; and bequeathed
Enter PAROLLES. to my overlooking. I have those hopes of her good One that goes with him: I love him for his sake, that her education promises : her dispositions she And yet I know him a notorious liar, inherits, which make fair gifts fairer; for wher Think him a great way fool, solely a coward; unclean mind carries virtuous qualities, there com Yet these fix'd evils sit so fit in him, mendations go with pity; they are virtues and That they take place, when virtue's steely bones traitors too : in her they are the better for their Look bleak in the cold wind: withal, full oft we sete simpleness; she derives her honesty, and achieves Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly. her goodness.
Par. Save you, fair queen. Laf. Your commendations, madam, get from her Hel. And you, monarch. tears.
Par. No. Count. 'Tis the best brine a maiden can season Hel. And no. her praise in. The remembrance of her father Par. Are you meditating on virginity ? never approaches her heart, but the tyranny of her Hel. Ay. You have some stain of soldier in sorrows takes all livelihood from her cheek.–No
you, let me ask you a question: man is enemy to more of this, Helena: go to, no more; lest it be virginity; how may we barricado it agaiost him? rather thought you affect a sorrow, than to have. Par. Keep him out.
Hel. I do affect a sorrow, indeed; but I have it Hel. But he assails; and our virginity, though too.
valiant in the defence, yet is weak. Unfold to es Laf. Moderate lamentation is the right of the some warlike resistance. dead, excessive grief the enemy to the living.
Par. There is none: man, sitting down before Count. If the living be enemy to the grief, the you, will undermine you, and blow you up. excess makes it soon mortal.
Hel. Bless our poor virginity from underminers Ber. Madam I desire your holy wishes.
and blowers up!- Is there no military policy, box Laf. How understand we that?
virgins might blow up men ? Count. Be thou blest, Bertram; and succeed thy Par. Virginity being blown down, man wil father
quicklier be blown up: marry, in blowing him In manners, as in shape! thy blood, and virtue, down again, with the breach yourselves made you Contend for empire in thee; and thy goodness lose your city. It is not politic in the commonShare with thy birth-right! Love all, trust a few, wealth of nature to preserve virginity. Loss of Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy virginity is rational increase; and there was never Rather in power than use; and keep thy friend virgin got, till virginity was first lost. That son Under thy own life's key: be check'd for silence, were made of is metal to make virgins. Virginity
, But never tax'd for speech. What heaven more by being once lost, may be ten times found: by will,
being ever kept, it is ever lost.
'Tis too cold a That thee may furnish, and my prayers pluck down, companion : away with't. Fall on thy head !-Farewell, my lord:
. I will stand for't a little, though therefore 'Tis an unseason'd courtier: good my lord,
I die a virgin. Advise him.
Par. There's little can be said in't: 'tis against Laf. He cannot want the best
the rule of nature. To speak on the part of rirThat shall attend his love.
ginity is to accuse your mothers, which is most Count. Heaven bless him !
infallible disobedience. He that hangs himself is a Farewell, Bertram.
[Erit Countess. virgin: virginity murders itself, and should be buried Ber. [To HELENA.] The best wishes that can in highways, out of all sanctified limit, as a despe. be forged in your thoughts be servants to you! Be rate offendress against nature. Virginity breeds comfortable to my mother, your mistress, and make mites, much like a cheese ; consumes itself to the much of her.
very paring, and so dies with feeding his own stomLaf. Farewell, pretty lady: you must hold the ach. Besides, virginity is peevish, proud, idle. credit of your father.
made of self-love, which is the most inhibited sin [Exeunt Bertram, and LaFeU. in the canon. Keep it not: you cannot choose but Hel. O, were that all!- I think not on my father; lose by't. Out with’t: within ten years it will And these great tears grace his remembrance more make itself ten, which is a goodly increase, and the Than those I shed for him. What was he like? principal itself not much the worse. I have forgot him: my imagination
Hel. How might one do, sir, to lose it to her own Carries no favour in't but Bertram's.
liking ? I am undone: there is no living, none,
Par. Let me see: marry, ill; to like him that If Bertram be away. It were all one,
ne'er it likes. 'Tis a commodity will lose the gloss