Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

ne told how he loved her, and asked if she would be his, she answered, • Yes, when Dorastus becomes a shepherd.” After thinking some while with himself he resolved to do this, saying,“ Dorastus, shame not at thy shepherd's weeds : the heavenly gods have sometimes earthly thoughts. Neptune became a ram, Jupi ter a bull, Apollo a shepherd; they gods, and yet in love; and thou a man appointed to love.” So, the next time he came disguised as a shepherd, insomuch that she at first thought him to be one indeed ; but when she saw he was the prince she rose up modestly and saluted him ; and he taking her gently by the hand repaid her courtesy with a kiss, aud prayed her to sit dowu by bis side, saying, -i Fawnia, thou wert content to love Dorastus, when he ceased to be a prmce, and became a shepherd; and see, I bave made the change, not to iniss of my choice.” Thus their sweet courtship ended in a mutual vow and troth-plight; she saying, -“1 yield, resting Dorastus' handmaid, ready to obey his will, if no prejudice to his honour, nor to my credit;” and he “ swearing that neither distance, time, nor adverse fortune should diminish his affection, but that he would remain loyal unto death."

The prince knew his father's consent could not be won to such a match : so he determined to provide a mass of money and many rich jewels, and to fee into Italy till he should either make terms with his father or succeed to the crown: with which device Fawnia was much pleased; for she feared, that if the king should hear of the contract his anger would be such as nothing but death might appease. She therefore kept to the care of her flock, the prince visiting her every day in the disguise of a shepherd, till he could put all things in readiness for their departure. And because he could not well do this alone, he made an old servant, named Capnio, privy to his affairs; who, being unable to shake his purpose, dealt so secretly in the cause that every thing was soon ready for the passage. In the night time he conveyed the treasures into the ship, and by secret means let Fawnia know they were to start the next morning; and she, rising very early, and going out as to her flock, waited for the prince, who coming along presently, they hastened together to the haven, and got safe aboard and were ready to sail as soon as Capnio should come.

Meanwhile the secret meetings of the lovers had come to the olul shepherd's ears; who, fearing what mischief might grow therefroin both to Fawnia and himself, resolved to carry the mantle and jewels to the king, and inform him all how he had found her; hoping that he would take her into his service, and let him pass unblamed. As he was making for the palace on this business, Capnio, being on his way to the ship, met him, and, knowing he was Fawnia's father, and suspecting some mischief, and being a wily fellow, began to question him, and soon drew from him all what he was going about; then told him he did bui lose his labour in going to the palace, for the king meant that day to take the sea air, and that if he would follow his counsel anil turn back with him to the haven, he should speak with the king there. This advice the old man gladly took, and when they were come to the sea-side Capnio asked him to go and see the ship, and, he declining this, had him carried on board by force, which done, they forthwith set sail and were off. A terrible storm overtaking them at sea, they were well nigh devoured by the waves ; were driven from their course, and after some days landed in Bohemia. Dorastus, knowing what had passed between bis father and Pandosto, was half afraid to go ashore, but Capnio advised him to conceal his real name and country till he could get passage into Italy; which advice he readily followed. This matter being duly arranged, the fame of Fawnia's beauty was soon spread through the city, and came to the king's ear, who thereupon grew so curious to see her that he had them appre. hended as spies, and brought to the court. At the first sight be fell passionately in love with her, and, that he might stay her in his eye, went to quarrelling with the prince, sternly demanding their names, and whence they came, and wby they were there ; and when Dorastus gave a fictitious account of himself, he feigned not to believe his story, and caused him to be put in prison till the truth might appear. This done, he then went to courting Fawnia with all his might, and, after a deal of passionate solicitation, being still repulsed, he at last flung from her in a rage, swearing that if she would not yield to reason, she should to force; all which only caused her to hate him the more.

While the king was nursing this wicked purpose there came ambassadors from Egistus, who, hearing through certain Bohemian merchants of his son's imprisonment by Pandosto, had sent to bave him set free, and Fawnia and Porrus put to death. Pan. dosto received the ambassadors with great honour, to make amends for his former injuries to their king; and, being certificd by them that his prisoner was Dorastus, foribwith ordered bis release, embraced him very lovingly, and had him seated by his side in a chair of state. By this time Pandosto's love of Fawnia was turned to deadly hate; and as he was proceeding to execute the will of Egist on her and Porrus, the latter, to save his own life, declared the whole truth concerning her, at the same time showing the chain and jewels he had found with her in the boat. As soon as this was done the king leaped from bis seat and kissed Fawnia, saying she was his daughter whom he had sent to. Aoat in the seas. 'Then was Fawnia joyful that she had found such a father ; Dorastus glad he should have such a wife; the ambassa. dors rejoiced that their prince had made such a choice, and that the kingdoms would now be reconciled in close amity; and the Bohemians made bonfires and shows to express their joy at the finding of their lost princess. After some time passed in sports and rejoicings Pandos!o made the old shepherd a knight, and, a sufficient navy being provided, all set sail together for Sicilia, where they were sumptuously entert. ned by Egistus, and the

[ocr errors]

marriage of the young lovers celebrated; which being ended, Pandosto, calling to mind how he had betrayed Egistas, and caused the death of Bellaria, and then lusted after his own daugh ter, “ fell into a melancholy fit, and, to close up the comedy with a tragical stratagem, slew himself.

From this sketch it would seem that Shakespeare must have written with the novel before him, and not merely from general recollection. We have been careful to take in whatsoever points and particulars of the story may have furnished any thing towards the play; our aim being to set forth the Poet's obligations at large: to appreciate his superiority in judginent and taste, one must consult the original, and see what he left. The free sailing between Sicily and Bohemia he retained, reversing, however, the local order of the incidents, so that Polixenes and Florizel are Bobemian princes, whereas their prototypes were Sicilians. In the novel Paulina and the Clown are wanting altogether, and Capnio yields but a slight hint, if indeed it be so much, towards the part of Autolycus. And, besides the great addition of life and matter in these persons, the play has several other judicious departures from the novel. In Lcontes all the revolting features of Pandosto, save his jealousy and the headstrong insolence and tyranny consequent thereon, are purged away; so that while the latter has neither intellect nor generosity to redeem his character, jealousy being the least of his faults, the other bas a liberal stock of both. And in Bellaria the Poet had little more than a baru framework of incident wherein to set the noble, lofty womanhood of Hermione, a conception far, far above the reach of such a mind as Greene's. In the matter of the painted statue Shake speare, so far as we know, was altogether without a model, as he is without an imitator; the boldness of the plan being such indeed as nothing but entire success could justify, and wherein we can scarce conceive of anybody but Shakespeare's having succeeded. And yet here it is that we are to look for the idea and formal cause of Hermione's character, while her character, again, is the shaping and informing power of the whole drama. For this idea is really the prolific germ out of which the entire work is evolved, the living centre and organic law in and around which all the parts are vitally knit together. But, indeed, largely as the Poet here drew from his predecessor, his own most original and inim itable method of conceiving and working out character is every where dominant.

In the delineation of Leontes there is an abruptness of change, which certainly, at first view, strikes us as not a little a-clash with pature: we cannot well see how one state of mind grows out of a preceding state : his jealousy shoots in comet-like, seems out of place and keeping, as something unprovided for in the general ordering of his character. Which makes that this feature

appears to have bea: suggested rather by the exigencies of the stage than

by the natural workings of hụman passion. And herein the Poet seems strangely at variance with himself; his usual method being to unfold a passion in its rise and progress, its turns and vicissi. tudes, so that we go along with it freely from its origin to its consummation; and if, which is sometimes the case, he usher in a passion at its full height, he so manages to throw the mind back or around upon various predisposing causes and circumstances, as to generate a spontaneous concurrence of our feelings with the whole representation. And, certainly, there is no accounting for Leontes' conduct but by supposing a strong predisposition to jealousy in him, which, however, has been hitherto kept latent by his wife's clear, firm, serene discreetness, but which breaks out into sudden and frightful activity as soon as she, under a special pressure of motives, slightly overacts the confidence of friendship. There needed but a spark of occasion to set this secret magazine of passion all a-blaze. Wherein, after all, is but exemplified the strange transformations that do sometimes occur in men upon sudden and unforeseen emergencies. And it is observable that the very slightness of the queen's indiscretion, the fact that she goes

but a little, a very little too far, only works against her, causing the king to suspect her of great effort and care to avoid suspicion. And on the same principle, because he has never suspecied her before, therefore he suspects her all the more vehemently now: that his confidence has heretofore stood unshaken and even untouched, he attributes to extreme artfulness on her part; for even so, to an ill-disposed mind, perfect innocence is apt to give an impression of consummate art. – A passion thus groundless and self-generated might well be full-grown as soon as born: and it is the more greedy and craving, that it has nothing real to eat; and so proceeds at once to “make the meat it feeds on,” causing him to magnify whatsoever he sees, and to imagine many things that

'That jealousy, however, is not the habit of his mind, appears in that it takes him by surprise, and finds him totally unprepared; insomuch that he forthwith loses all self-control, and · runs right athwart the rules of common prudence and decorum, and becomes an object at once of pity, hatred, and scorn.

The workings of his passion have been critically traced by Coleridge in a passage which we should scarce be pardoned for oinilting • Jealousy,” says he, “is a vice of the mind, a culpable tendency of the temper, having certain well-known and well-defined effects and concomitants, all of which are visible in Leontes, and, I toldly say, not one of which marks its presence in Othello :such as, first, an excitability by the most inadequate causes, and an eagerness to snatch at proofs ; secondly, a grossness of conception, and a disposition to degrade the object of the passion by sensual fancies and images; thirdly, a sense of shame of his own feelings exhibited in a solitary moodiness of hunour, and yet from the violence of the passion forced to utter itself, and there. fore catching occasions to ease the mind by ambiguities, equi

are not.

[ocr errors]

voques, by talking to those who cannot, and who are known not to be able to, understand what is said to them; in short, by soliloquy in the form or dialogue, and hence a confused, broken, and frag. mentary manner; fourthly, a dread of vulgar ridicule, as distinct from a high sense of honour, or a mistaken sense of duty; and lastly, and immediately consequent on this, a spirit of selfish vindictiveness." The Poet

manages with great art to bring Leontes off from the disgraces of his passion, and repeal him home to our sympathies, which had been freely drawn out to him at first by his generous cordiality of friendship. And to this end jealousy is represented as his only fault, and this as a sudden freak, which passes on di. rectly into a frenzy, and whips him quite out of himself, tempora. rily overriding his characteristic qualities, but not combining with them; the more violent for being unwonted, and the shorter lived for being violent. In his firm, compact energy of thought and speech, after his passion has cleared itself, and in his perennial gushes of repentant sorrow after his bereavement, are displayed the real tone and texture of his character. Quick, impulsive, headstrong, he admits no bounds to anger or to penitence; condemns himself as vehemently as he does others; will spend his life in atoning for a wrong he has done in a moment of passion : and others are the more willing to forgive him, forasmuch as he never forgives himself.

The old poets seem to have contemplated a much wider range of female excellence than it has since grown customary to allow; taking for granted, apparently, that whatsoever we feel to be most divine in man might be equally so in woinan; and so pouring into their conceptions of womanhood a certain manliness of soul, wherein we realize an union of what is lovely with what is honourable, - a combination which any right-minded man would naturally fear as well as fancy; which would inspire him at the same time with tenderness and with awe. Their ideas of delicacy did not preclude strength; and in the female character they were rather pleased than otherwise to have the sweetness of the violet blended with the nobleness of the oak; probably because they saw and felt that woman might be big-hearted and brave-minded, and yet be none the less womanly; and that love might build all the higher and firmer for having its foundations laid deep in respect. This largeness of heart and liberality of thought often comes out in their writings, and that, too, whether in dealing with ideal or with actual women; which suggests that there must have been something in the spirit of the age and in the characters they saw, to favour them herein; that in what they chose to create they were much influenced by what they were accustomed to perceive. Of this the aptest illustration that our reading has lit upon is in Ben Jon. son's lines on the Countess of Bedford, describing “what kind of creature I could most desire to honour, serve, and love :"

« AnteriorContinuar »