« AnteriorContinuar »
To see him every hour, to sit and draw
The interest excited by this beautiful picture of a fond and innocent heart is kept up afterwards by her resolution to follow him to France, the success of her experiment in restoring the king's health, her demanding Bertram in marriage as a recompense, his leaving her in disdain, her interview with him afterwards disguised as Diana, a young lady whom he importunes with his secret addresses, and their final reconciliation when the consequences of her stratagem and the proofs of her love are fully made known. The persevering gratitude of the French king to his benefactress, who cures him of a languishing distemper by a prescription hereditary in her family, the indul. gent kindness of the Countess, whose pride of birth yields, al. most without a struggle, to her affection for Helen, the honesty and uprightness of the good old lord Lafeu, make very interesting parts of the picture. The wilful stubbornness and youthful petulance of Bertram are also very admirably described. The comic part of the play turns on the folly, boasting, and coward. ice of Parolles, a parasite and hanger-on of Bertram's, the de. tection of whose false pretensions to bravery and honor forms a very amusing episode. He is first found out by the old lord Lafeu, who says, “ The soul of this man is in his clothes ;' and it is proved afterwards that his heart is in his tongue, and that both are false and hollow. The adventure of “the bringing off of his drum” has become proverbial as a satire on all ridicu.! lous and blustering undertakings which the person never means to perform : nor can anything be more severe than what one of the bystanders remarks upon what Parolles says of himself, “ Is it possible he should know what he is, and be that he is ?": Yet Parolles himself gives the best solution of the difficulty af. terwards when he is thankful to escape with his life and the loss of character; for, so that he can live on, he is by no means squeamish about the loss of pretensions, to which he had sense
enough to know he had no real claim, and which he had as silord only as a means to live.
“ PAROLLES. Yet I am thankful : if my heart were great,
The story of All's WELL THAT ENDS WELL and of several others of Shakspeare's plays, is taken from Boccaccio. The poet has dramatised the original novel with great skill and comic spirit, and has preserved all the beauty of character and senti. ment without improving upon it, which was impossible. There is indeed in Boccaccio's serious pieces a truth, a pathos, and an exquisite refinement of sentiment, which is hardly to be met with in any prose writer whatever. Justice has not been done him by the world. He has in general passed for a mere narrator of lascivious tales or idle jests. This character probably originated in his obnoxious attacks on the monks, and has been kept up by the grossness of mankind, who revenged their own want of refinement on Boccaccio, and only saw in his writings what suited the coarseness of their own tastes. But the truth is, that he has carried sentiment of every kind to its very highest purity and perfection. By sentiment we would here understand the habitual workings of some one powerful feeling, where the heart reposes almost entirely upon itself, without the violent excitement of opposing duties or untoward circumstances. In this way, nothing ever came up to the story of Frederigo Alberigi and his Falcon. The perseverance in attachment, the spirit of gallantry and generosity displayed in it, has no parallel in the history of heroical sacrifices. The feeling is so unconscious too, and involuntary, is brought out in such small, unlooked-for, and unostentatious circumstances, as to show it to have been woven
into the very nature and soul of the author. The story of Isabella is scarcely less fine, and is more affecting in the circumstances and in the catastrophe. Dryden has done justice to the impassioned eloquence of the Tancred and Sigismunda; but has not given an adequate idea of the wild preternatural interest of the story of Honoria. Cimon and Iphigenia is by no means one of the best, notwithstanding the popularity of the subject. The proof of unaltered affection given in the story of Jeronymo, and the simple touches of nature and picturesque beauty in the story of the two lovers, who were poisoned by tasting of a leaf in the garden at Florence, are perfect master-pieces. The epithet of Divine was well bestowed on this great painter of the human heart. The invention implied in his different tales is immense: but we are not to infer that it is all his own. He probably availed himself of all the common traditions which were floating about in his time, and which he was the first to appropriate. Homer appears the most original of all authors— probably for no other reason than that we can trace the plagiarism no farther. Boccaccio has furnished subjects to number. less writers since his time, both dramatic and narrative. The story of Griselda is borrowed from his Decameron by Chaucer; as is the Knight's Tale (Palamon and Arcite) from his poem of the Theseid.
LOVE'S LABOR’S LOST.
If we were to part with any of the author's comcdies, it should be this. Yet we should be loth to part with Don Adriano de Armado, that mighty potentate of nonsense, or his page, that handful of wit ; with Nathaniel the curate, or Holofernes the school-master, and their dispute after dinner on the golden cadences of poesy ;' with Costard the clown, or Dull the con. stable. Biron is too accomplished a character to be lost to the world, and yet he could not appear without his fellow courtiers and the king: and if we were to leave out the ladies, the gentle. men would have no mistresses. So that we believe we may let the whole play stand as it is, and we shall hardly venture to " set a mark of reprobation on it." Still we have some objections to the style, which we think savors more of the pedantic spirit of Shakspeare's time than of his own genius; more of controversial divinity, and the logic of Peter Lombard, than of the inspiration of the Muse. It transports us quite as much to the manners of the court, and the quirks of courts of law, as to the scenes of nature or the fairy-land of his own imagination. Shakspeare has set himself to imitate the tone of polite conver. sation then prevailing among the fair, the witty, and the learned, and he has imitated it but too faithfully. It is as if the hand of Titian had been employed to give grace to the curls of a fullbottomed periwig, or Raphael had attempted to give expression to the tapestry figures in the House of Lords. Shakspeare has put an excellent description of this fashionable jargon into the mouth of the critical Holofernes, “as too picked, too spruce, too affected, too odd, as it were, too peregrinate, as I may call it;" and nothing can be more marked than the difference when he
breaks loose from the trammels he had imposed on himself, “as light as bird from brake,” and speaks in his own person. We think, for instance, that in the following soliloquy the poet has fairly got the start of Queen Elizabeth and her maids of honor :
“ BIRON. 0! and I forsooth in love,
The character of Biron drawn by Rosaline and that which Biron gives of Boyet are equally happy. The observations on the use and abuse of study, and on the power of beauty to quicken the understanding as well as the senses, are excellent. The scene which has the greatest dramatic effect is that in which