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WILD and fantastical as this play is, all the parts, in their various modes, are well written, and give the kind of pleasure which the author designed. Fairies in his time were much in fashion; common tradition had made them familiar, and Spenser's poem had made them great.
Johnson's concluding observations on this play are not conceived with his usual judgment. There is no analogy, or resemblance between the fairies of Spenser and those of Shakspeare. The fairies of Spenser, as appears from his description of them in the second book of the Faerie Queene, canto x., were a race of mortals created by Prometheus, of the human size, shape, and affections, and subject to death. But those of Shakspeare, and of common tradition, as Johnson calls them, were a diminutive race of sportful beings, endowed with immortality and super
natural powers, totally different from those of Spenser. M. MAson.
LOVE'S LABOR'S LOST.
P. R. E LIM IN A R Y R. E M A. R. K. S.
THE novel upon which this comedy was founded has hitherto eluded the research of the commentators. Mr. Douce thinks it will prove to be of French extraction. “The Dramatis Personae in a great measure demonstrate this, as well as a palpable Gallicism in Act iv. Sc. 1: viz. the terming a letter a capon.”
This is one of Shakspeare's early plays, and the author's youth is certainly perceivable, not only in the style and manner of the versification, but in the lavish superfluity displayed in the execution—the uninterrupted succession of quibbles, equivoques, and Sallies of every description. “The sparks of wit fly about in such profusion that they form complete fireworks, and the dialogue for the most part resembles the bustling collision and banter of passing masks at a carnival.”* The scene in which the king and his companions detect each other's breach of their mutual vow, is capitally contrived. The discovery of Biron's love-letter while rallying his friends, and the manner in which he extricates himself, by hidiculing the folly of the vow, are admirable.
The grotesque characters, don Adrian de Armado, Nathaniel the curate, and Holofernes, that prince of pedants, with the humors of Costard the clown, are well contrasted with the sprightly wit of the principal characters in the play. It has been observed that “Biron and Rosaline suffer much in comparison with Benedick and Beatrice,” and it must be confessed that there is some justice in the observation. Yet Biron, “that merry mad-cap lord,” is not overrated in Rosaline's admirable character of him—
“A merrier man,
Shakspeare has only shown the inexhaustible powers of his mind, in improving on the admirable originals of his own creation, in a more mature age. Malone placed the composition of this play first in 1591, afterwards in 1594. Dr. Drake thinks we may safely assign it to the earlier period, The first edition was printed in 1598.
FERDINAND, King of Navarre.
LoNGAVILLE, | Lords, attending on the King.
DULL, a Constable.
CostarD, a Clown.
MoTH, Page to Armado.
} Lords, attending on the Princess of France.
Princess of France.
Officers and Others, Attendants on the King and Princess.
1 Berowne in all the old editions.
LoVE's LABOR’s LOST.
ACT I. SCENE I. Navane. A Park with a Palace in it.
Enter the King, BIRON, LoNGAVILLE, and DUMAIN.
King. LET fame, that all hunt after in their lives, Live registered upon our brazen tombs, And then grace us in the disgrace of death; When, spite of cormorant, devouring time, The endeavor of this present breath may buy That honor, which shall bate his scythe's keen edge, And make us heirs of all eternity. Therefore, brave conquerors!—for so you are, That war against your own affections, And the huge army of the world’s desires,— Our late edict shall strongly stand in force. Navarre shall be the wonder of the world; Our court shall be a little Academe, Still and contemplative in living art. You three, Birón, Dumain, and Longaville, Have sworn for three years’ term to live with me, My fellow-scholars, and to keep those statutes, That are recorded in this schedule here. Your oaths are past, and now subscribe your names: That his own hand may strike his honor down, That violates the smallest branch herein. If you are armed to do, as sworn to do, Subscribe to your deep oath, and keep it too.
Long. I am resolved. 'Tis but a three years' fast;
The mind shall banquet, though the body pine.
Fat paunches have lean pates; and dainty bits