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sin ” can “cover itself withal,” for she can attempt slowly to poison her husband, yet watching him with the tenderest care. She too is not lacking in her expression of friendship for Imogen and Posthumus, well knowing that by her pleading for the persecuted pair, she will be increasing the king's anger against them, and thus under the guise of friendship which “is constant in all other things,” she will be “ tickling where she wounds.” She can wet her “cheeks with artificial tears," and frame her“ face to all occasions.” Her brain is “more busy than the labouring spider," and her “serpent heart,” is “hid with a flowering face.”
Imogen is one of the most charming, artless and lovely female characters that Shakepere ever produced. There is none other more exquisite among the whole range of his creations. She is all grace, it is not that she is beautiful in form and feature, her true beauty consists in her purity, her tenderness, her artlessness and the depth of her love, all these are finely conceived and most beautifully displayed. Her outward qualities charm each beholder, but her inward qualities are of a loftier character, and it is these which give her the power by which she acts. The purity of her nature instinctively divines what is the true course of action, and she is never at fault in the mode she adopts. The language which she uses is of the truest nature, true to her divine purity, and the love which she has for Posthumus. Love with Imogen is all in all. She is all love, it is her every day thought, in fact, her religion. Her character is made up of love ; and her husband, “a man worth any woman," is the “bright particular star” upon whom her love is concentrated. With her goeth the affections of the audience, who are moved in like manner with herself. With her sorrows they sympathise and in her joys they equally participate. She is the centre round which the lesser characters all revolve, for they all serve to heighten by the force of contrast, the purity of her thoughts, and to develope the charming grace, innocence and truthfulness of her nature.
THE WINTER'S TALE.—This comedy was first printed in the folio of 1623, and the first record of its production is an entry in the manuscript diary of Dr. S. Forman, which exists in the Ashmoleum museum. It was played at the Globe Theatre on the 15th of May, 1611. It was the custom for the king's players, to which company of actors Shakspere belonged, during the spring and summer season to play at such theatres as the Globe, which was open to the sky, and in the winter they played at the private house in Blackfriars. Greene's History of Dorastes and Fawnia served Shakspere to found this play upon, and his version is a vast improvement upon the work of Greene. Though he has adopted many of the incidents of Greene's story, in no way has Shakspere adopted his language. The termination is also different, displaying more judgment and evincing more power than is found in the novel. The characters of Autolycus, Antignous, the Clown Shepherd and Paulina have been added, and are entirely the creations of Shakspere, for no characters of their class are found in Greene's story.
Some writers have wished to place this comedy among the historical works of Shakspere, but it may more truly be termed a tragic-comic pastoral, for the oracle of Delphi decides the tragic catastrophe and prepares the reader for the happy conclusion of the piece. The jealousy of Leontes is of a totally different kind to that of Othello's. Leontes' passion proceeds from within, while Othello's passion is brought about by the whisperings of the crafty Iago. Othello is not prone to jealousy, the subtlety of his ancient and the outward circumstances by which he is surrounded, evoke the passion with him, while Leontes has no outward incidents to serve this purpose; things external do not give rise to nor develope this passion with him, for he is naturally affected by it, owing to the suspiciousness of his nature. Leontes is the dupe of his own imagination, Othello is the dupe of Iago, who fans into a flame all the elements of mistrust with which he has sought to surround the gentle, loving Desdemona. Hermione is thoroughly conscious of her own innocence, strong in her moral power, full of dignity, grace, honour and duty. She is calmness personified when she learns the worst, and this calmness is the result of her innocence and of her belief in the ultimate triumph of her cause. She defends her honour most eloquently in words, yet still more so by her acts. Perdita possesses fully the nature of her mother. She has the same calm dignity, the same repose, the same resignation and power of self-denial. Both mentally and in her physical aspect, she is a true copy of the wronged Hermione.
KING LEAR.—This tragedy was produced at the Globe Theatre in the spring of 1605. There was an elder play which was entered on the stationers' books in
1594, and there is no doubt that Shakspere derived some hints therefrom, particularly in relation to the character of the faithful, enduring Kent. From Holinshed's chronicles the chief materials have been derived, though the catastrophe of Shakspere's tragedy differs from all others. Three editions in 4to. were published in 1608 of Lear, which is one of the greatest of all tragedies, for it is composed only of tragic elements. Though complex in its arrangements, it is faultless. Parental love and filial ingratitude are the leading feelings of the tragedy, and out of their development is evolved all the results of the tragedy. The fool is a splendid set-off to the sorrows of the fallen monarch, and he also serves to render those sorrows more impressive than they otherwise would be. The introduction of the fool is a wonderful example of the dramatic skill of Shakspere, and shows how clearly and completely he was versed in true dramatic construction.
The character of Cordelia is one of the most beautiful of the great master's creations, and one of the most difficult for any actress to represent. The actress who may undertake this part must be perfectly natural, she must not descend to any of the trickeries of her art, she must be gentle, kind, innocent and affectionate, "of all compounded,” with a sweetness in her articulation, for the voice of Cordelia is "ever soft, gentle and low; an excellent thing in woman." Cordelia is full of truth and constancy to the truth, and she cannot heave her heart into her mouth, for the truth “nor more nor less” will she speak, whatever be the cost. Her “fortunes" may be marred, yet gently though firmly she says in answer to her father's query, “I love you and most honour you,” and then adds
“Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
To love my father all.
Ay, my good lord.
The wrong which her father enacts towards her when he disclaims all "paternal care,” holds her was a stranger” to his heart, and leaves her “shorn of her fair proportion," does not ruffle her gentleness, for when saying farewell to her sisters she bids them “use well our father.” When she learns of the ill treatment which her father had received from her “two sisters,” it does not move her anger, she does not indulge in rage, there is no “ hideous rashness" in her nature; what they have done only moves her “patience and sorrow," and in a true womanly way she yields to her feelings, and then resolves that nothing shall be wanting on her part to save her father, for above everything rises her filial feeling. She has no thought for herself, “no blown ambition incites her to arms," on the contrary she is moved to action by “love, dear love," "our aged father's right," and by her natural hate of all wrong doing. She would that the “kind gods" should cure the “great breach" and wind up “the untuned and jarring senses” of her dear father. She knows by whom this ill result has been wrought, but in the tenderness and gentleness of her nature she does not revile her “two sisters,” who have caused the "violent harms" in the “reverence” due to her father, and she fervently hopes that the “medicine” of “restoration”