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ages, — their functions being, of course, entirely imposed by him; and for the substance of his play, the flesh with which he clothed the skeleton that he took at second hand from the father of Italian fiction, he appears to have been indebted to the story only for one or two suggestions.
The incidents of the novel being all embodied in the play, and the progress of the two being the same, there are yet certain differences between them which are worthy of notice. The heroine of the tale is rich as well as fatherless: she of the play is a poor dependant, and is thus placed in a situation from which the haughty young noble would be the more unwilling to accept a wife. The King in the tale grants his preserver's demand for the Count Beltramo "to husbande" very reluctantly, and only for his oath sake: but the King in the play, with all his devotion to the memory of Bertram's father, and his fondness for the son, seems to think that Helena is more than worthy of the latter in all respects, except that of rank — a disparity which can easily be obviated; and this enhances our estimation of her, and begets for her some much-needed sympathy in the unwomanly stratagems by which she seeks to obtain a husband and to be made a mother. In the tale there is no hint of the martial spirit of Bertram, and he joins the Florentine army only to escape his wife: in the play he yearns for military glory before the arrival of Helena at Paris, where he frets at "creaking his shoes on the plain masonry;" and thus Shakespeare wins for a character full of moral failings an admiration which, blent with our compassion for a man who is pursued by a woman determined to make him her husband in name and in reality, whether he will or no, becomes a passport to our favor. In the tale the heroine, on arriving at Rossiglione, administers her husband's estate, which had fallen into decay, with great ability: but this incident, valueless for dramatic purposes, is made unnecessary in the play by the presence at Rousillon of the Dowager Countess and her Steward; and in the tale, too, the heroine, instead of slipping stealthily off on her pretended pilgrimage, calls together the Count's vassals and makes a formal matter of her departure. The reappearance of the heroine in the tale with two stout boys is modified for the better in the play by showing her to the Count in a condition which would lead him to expect but one: but it is difficult to discover why Shakespeare added the incident of a projected second marriage on Bertram's part; unless it were so to deepen the shadows of that character that the ready forgiveness accorded by Helena might cause us to forget, in a measure, the means by which she obtained the right to pardon. Certain conditions of the story which Shakespeare undertook to dramatize were inevitable; and it is to be regretted that among them were some which we most wish could have been modified or disregarded.
The date of the production of this comedy is not determinable with certainty or precision. No quarto copy, no reference to contemporary events, aids the examination of the question, which is involved with another of much interest. Meres, in the passage so often quoted from his Palladis Tamia, mentions, among those of Shakespeare's comedies which he cites for their excellence, one that he calls "Loue labors wonne." No such title appears either in the authentic folio, or upon any quarto copy of a play ever attributed to Shakespeare, or to any contemporary; and no other reference to a play of that name has been found in the literature of Shakespeare's day. But Farmer, in his Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare, supposed All's Well that Ends Well "to have been sometimes called Love's Labour Wonne;" and this conjecture, thus thrown out without support, is the foundation, or rather the starting point, of the theory with regard to the production of this comedy which has been accepted for the last three quarters of a century. It is reasonable to presume that no play of Shakespeare's is lost to us; for Bo popular were his works upon the stage, and so eagerly were they sought by the play-readers of his day, that dramas the production of which he had merely superintended, and others with which he had no connection whatever, were attributed to him by booksellers who wished to avail themselves of his reputation. It is far more probable, therefore, that we have accepted that as his which belongs to another, than that even one Scene which came from his pen has passed into oblivion. This being the case, we must look for Love's Labour's Won among the fourteen comedies of the folio. The task is brief; for of the fourteen there are thirteen to which the title cannot by any ingenuity be made to apply; and the fourteenth is All's Well that Ends Well.* As the labors by which Helena attains at first the nominal and afterward the actual fruition of her desires furnish the action and the dramatic progress of this play, it might with as much propriety be called Love's Labour's Won as by the name it now bears. It is true that the introduction of the adage 'all's well that ends well' in three passages, one of which is the epilogue, seems to indicate an especial and inherent propriety in the name by which the comedy has come down to us; but this consideration actually makes nothing against the supposition that Love's Labour's Won was the title by which it was known to Meres, as we shall see in the examination of another subject with which the present question is connected.
* This remark is made in the full confidence that no one except its author will adopt Mr. Hunter's notion that Love's Labour's Won was the original name of The Tempest;—the labors being the log-piling task set by Prospero to Fer' dinand! See New Illustrations of Shakespeare.
If Love's Labour's Won were the name first given to this play, the hither limit of the period in which it was produced is fixed: it must have been written before 1598, when the Palladis Tamia was published. But it is especially noteworthy that many passages of the play, amounting, perhaps, to one third of all its verse, belong, upon their own evidence, to a much later period of Shakespeare's life. To this conclusion the present editor had arrived when entirely ignorant that it had been reached by others; although it seemed to him that no intelligent and reflective reader of Shakespeare could come short of it. A similar experience is alluded to by Mr. Verplanck in the following passage from his Introductory Remarks upon the play, in which the interesting question of this marked difference of style in various parts of the same work is presented with such delicacy of apprehension and clearness of statement that his successors cannot do better than to avail themselves of it: —
"Much of the graver dialogue, especially in the first two Acts, reminds the reader, in taste of composition, in rhythm, and in a certain quaintness of expression, of the Two Gentlemen of Verona. The comic part is spirited and laugh-provoking, yet it consists wholly in the exposure of a braggart coxcomb— one of the most familiar comic personages of the stage, and quite within the scope of a boyish artist's knowledge of life and power of satirical delineation. On the other hand, there breaks forth every where, and in many Scenes entirely predominates, a grave, moral thoughtfulness, expressed in a solemn, reflective tone, and sometimes in a sententious brevity 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 comparatively of a gray and sober hue, uncolored by those rainbow tints of fancy, or fiercely bright flashes of passion, that give such diversity of splendor to many other dramas. The reason of this cannot be that which Schlegel assigns, that « the glorious colors 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 passionate 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, must be evident to all who have made the shades and gradations of Shakespeare's varying and progressive taste and mind at all a subject of study. At any rate, the opinion just expressed was formed before the writer learned, from 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 very 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 the 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."
To be somewhat more particular than Mr. Verplanck, it is to be observed that passages of rhymed couplets, in which the thought is somewhat constrained and its expression limited by the form of the verse, are scattered freely through the play, and that these are found side by side with passages of blank verse in which the thought, on the contrary, so entirely dominates the form, and overloads and weighs it down, as to produce the impresA2
sion that the poet, in writing them, was almost regardless of the graces of his art, and merely sought an expression of his ideas in the most compressed and elliptical form. The former trait is characteristic of his youthful style; the latter marks a certain period of his maturer years. Contracted words, which Shakespeare used more freely in his later than in his earlier works, abound; and in some passages words are used in an esoteric sense which is distinctive of the poet's style about the time when Measure for Measure was produced. Note, for instance, the use of 'succeed' in "owe and succeed thy weakness," in Act II. Sc. 4 of that play, and in "succeed thy father in manners," Act I. Sc. 1 of this. It is to be observed, also, that the advice given by the Countess to Bertram when he leaves Rousillon is so like that of Polonius to Laertes in a similar situation, that either the latter is an expansion of the former, or the former a reminiscence of the latter; and as the passage is written in the later style, the second supposition appears the more probable. Finally, it is worthy of remark that both the French officers who figure in this play as 1 Lord and 2 Lord are, somewhat strangely, named Dumain, and that in Love's Labour's Lost, Dumain is also the name of that one of the three attendants and brothers in love of the King who has a post in the army; which, when taken in connection with other circumstances, is at least a hint of some relation between the two plays.
There seems, therefore, to be warrant for the decided opinion that Shakespeare, in the earlier part of his career, after the production of Love's Labour's Lost, and probably a little before that of Romeo and Juliet, desiring to bring out a counterpart to the former, pitched upon Boccaccio's story of Giglietta of Narbon as containing the materials for a comedy to be called Love's Labour's Won; —that he produced this play some three or four years before Meres wrote his Palladis Tamia — perhaps in 1593 or 1594; and that after its novelty was well worn off it was laid aside, and when it had passed out of the public mind, probably about 1604, he rewrote many passages, retouched many others, and brought it out again under a new name. It is worthy of remark that the adage which furnished this name occurs three times in those parts of the play — Act IV. Sc. 4, and Act V. Sc. 1 — which bear most unmistakable marks of the later of the two styles which are to be distinguished in the comedy.