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CRITICAL OPINIONS ON CORIOLANUS.
“In the three Roman pieces, Coriolanus,'«Julius Cæsar,' and ' Antony and Cleopatra,' the moderation with which Shakspeare excludes foreign appendages and arbitrary suppositions, and yet fully satisfies the wants of the stage, is particularly deserving of admiration. These plays are the very thing itself ; and under the apparent artlessness of adhering closely to history as he found it, an uncommon degree of art is concealed. Of every historical transaction Shakspeare knows how to seize the true poetical point of view, and to give unity and rounding to a series of events detached from the immeasurable extent of history without in any degree changing them. The public life of ancient Rome is called up from its grave, and exhibited before our eyes with the utmost grandeur and freedom of the dramatic form, and the heroes of Plutarch are ennobled by the most eloquent poetry.
“In ‘Coriolanus' we have more comic intermixtures than in the others, as the many-headed multitude plays here a considerable part; and when Shakspeare portrays the blind movements of the people in a mass, he almost always gives himself up to his merry humour. To the plebeians, whose folly is certainly sufficiently conspicuous already, the original old satirist Menenius is added by way of abundance. Droll scenes arise of a description altogether peculiar, and which are compatible only with such a political drama ; for instance, when Coriolanus, to obtain the consulate, must solicit the lower order of citizens, whom he holds in contempt for their cowardice in war, but cannot so far master his haughty disposition as to assume the customary humility, and yet extorts from them their votes.”— SCHLEGEL.
* * * * " The serious and elevated persons of this drama are delineated in colours of equal, if not superior strength. The unrivalled military prowess of Coriolanus, in whose nervous arm Death-that dark spirit’-dwelt; the severe sublimity of his character, his stern and unbending hauteur, and his undisguised contempt of all that is vulgar, pusillanimous, and base, are brought before us with a raciness and power of impression, and, notwithstanding a very liberal use both of the sentiments and language of his Plutarch, with a freedom of outline which, even in Shakspeare, may be allowed to excite our astonishment.
“Among the female characters a very important part is necessarily attached to the person of Volumnia ; the fate of Rome itself depending upon her parental influence and authority. The poet has accordingly done full justice to the great qualities which the Cheronean sage has ascribed to this energetic woman; the daring loftiness of her spirit, her bold and masculine eloquence, and, above all, her patriotic devotion, being marked by the most spirited and vigorous touches of his pencil.
“The numerous vicissitudes in the story; its rapidity of action ; its contrast of character; the splendid vigour of its serious, and the satirical sharpness and relish of its more familiar scenes, together with the animation which prevails throughout all its parts, have conferred on this play, both in the closet and on the stage, a remarkable degree of attraction.”—DRAKE.
THE WINTER'S TALE.
The first edition of this play known is that of the folio, 1623; and the earliest notice of its performance is an entry in the manuscript Diary (Mus. Ashmol. Oxon.) of Dr. Simon Forman, who thus describes the plot of the piece, which he witnessed at the Globe Theatre, May 15th, 1611 :
“Observe ther howe Lyontes the Kinge of Cicillia was overcom with jelosy of his wife with the Kinge of Bohemia, his frind, that came to see him, and howe he contrived his death, and wold have had his cup-berer to have poisoned, who gave the Kinge of Bohemia warning thereof and Aled with him to Bohemia.
"Remember also howe he sent to the orakell of Apollo, and the aunswer of Apollo that she Fas giltless, and that the kinge was jelouse, &c., and howe, except the child was found againe that was loste, the kinge should die without yssue; for the child was caried into Bohemia, and there laid in a forrest, and brought up by a sheppard, and the Kinge of Bohemia, his sonn married that wentch: and howe they fled into Cicillia to Leontes, and the sheppard having showed by the letter of the nobleman whom Leontes sent, it was that child, and [by] the jewells found about her, she was knowen to be Leontes daughter, and was then 16. yers old.
“ Remember also the rog [rogue) that cam in all tottered like roll pixci * and howe he fayned him sicke and to have him robbed of all that he had, and howe he cosoned the por man of all his money, and after cam to the shop ther (sheep sheer ?] with a pedlers packe, and ther cosened them again of all their money; and how he changed apparell with the Kinge of Bomia, his sonn, and then how he turned courtier, &c. Beware of trustinge feined beggars or fawninge fellouse." ¢
In the same year, as we learn from a record in the Accounts of the Revels at Court, it was acted at Whitehall:
The accounts of Lord Harrington, Treasurer of the Chamber to James I., show that it was again acted at Court, before Prince Charles, the Lady Elizabeth, and the Prince Palatine Elector, in May, 1613.
And it is further mentioned in the Office Book of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels, under the date of August the 19th, 1623:
" For the kings players. An olde playe called Winters Tale, formerly allowed of by Sir George Backe and likewyse by mee on Mr. Hemminges his worde that there was nothing prophane added or reformed, thogh the allowed booke was missing : and therefore I returned it without a fee, this 19th of August, 1623."
+ From a carefully executed copy made from the original by Mr. Halliwell.
This was no doubt some noted vagabond, whose nickDe has not come down to us correctly. Mr. Collier prints * Cod Pipci."
From these facts Mr. Collier infers, and his inference is strengthened by the style of the language and the structure of the verse, that “ The Winter's Tale” was a novelty at the time Forman saw it played at the Globe, and had “ been composed in the autumn and winter of 1610-11, with a view to its production on the Bankside, as soon as the usual performances by the king's players commenced there."
The plot of “ The Winter's Tale” is founded on a popular novel by Robert Greene, first printed in 1588, and then called “ Pandosto: The Triumph of Time,"* &c., though in subsequent impressions intituled, “ The History of Dorastus and Fawnia.” In this tale we have the leading incidents of the play, and counterparts, though insufferably dull and coarse ones, of the principal personages. But Shakespeare has modified the crude materials of his original with such judgment, and vivified and ennobled the characters he has retained with such incomparable art, that, as usual, he may be said to have imposed rather than to have incurred an obligation by adopting them.
. "PANDOSTO THE TRIUMPH OF TIME. Wherein is Discovered by a pleasant Historie, that although by the meanes of sinister fortune, Truth may be concealed yet by Time in spight of forlune it is most manifestly revealed. Pleasant for age to aroyde drowosie thoughts, profitable for youth to eschue other wanton pastimes, and bringing to both a desired content.
Temporis filia veritas. By Robert Greene, Maister of Artes in Cambridge. Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci. Imprinted at London by Thomas Orwin for Thomas Cadman, dwelling at the Signe of the Bible, neere unto the North doore of Paules, 1588."
LEONTES, King of Sicilia.
\ Sicilian Lords
Attending on the Queen.
Lords, Ladies, and Attendants ; Satyrs for a Dance ; Shepherds, Shepherdesses, Guards, do
SCENE,-Sometimes in SICILIA ; sometimes in BOHEMIA.