« AnteriorContinuar »
Isabella. What says my brother ?
Claudio. Aye, but to die, and go we know not where;
Isabella. Alas! alas!
Claudio. Sweet sister, let me live :
What adds to the dramatick beauty of this scene and the effect of Claudio's passionate attachment to life is, that it immediately follows the Duke's lecture to him, in the character of the Friar, recommending an absolute indifference to it.
_"Reason thus with life,-
For thou dost fear the soft and tender fork
MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.
THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR is no doubt a very amusing play, with a great deal of humour, character, and nature in it: but we should have liked it much better, if any one else had been the hero of it, instead of Falstaff. We could have been contented if Shakspeare had not been “ manded to shew the knight in love.” Wits and philosophers, for the most part, do not shine in that character; and Sir John himself, by no means, comes off with flying colours. Many people complain of the degradation and insults to which Don Quixote is so frequently exposed in his various adventures. But what are the unconscious indignities which he suffers, compared with the sensible mortifications which Falstaff is made to bring upon himself? What are the blows and buffettings which the Don receives from the staves of the Yanguesian carriers, or from Sancho Panza's more hard-hearted hands, compared with the contamination of the buck
basket, the disguise of the fat woman of Brentford, and the horns of Herne the hunter, which are discovered on Sir John's head ? In reading the play, we indeed wish him well through all these discomfitures, but it would have been as well if he had not got into them. Falstaff in the MERRY WIVES
OF WINDSOR is not the man he was in the two parts of Henry IV. His wit and eloquence have left him.
Instead of making a butt of others, he is made a butt of by them. Neither is there a single particle of love in him to excuse his follies : he is merely a designing, barefaced knave, and an unsuccessful one. The scene with Ford as Master Brook, and that with Simple, Slender's man, who comes to ask after the Wise Woman, are almost the only ones in which his old intellectual ascendency appears.
He is like a person recalled to the stage to perform an unaccustomed and ungracious part; and in which we perceive only some faint sparks of those flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the hearers in a roar.” But the single scene with Doll Tear sheet, of Mrs. Quickly's account of his desiring " to eat some of housewife Keach's prawns,” and telling her “ to be no so familiarity with such people,” is worth the whole of the MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR put together. Ford's jealousy, which is the mainspring of the comick inci. dents is certainly very well managed.' Page, on the contrary, appears to be somewhat uxorious in his disposition ; and we have pretty plain indications of the effect of the characters of the busbands on the different degrees of fidelity in their
wives. Mrs. Quickly makes a very lively go-between, both between Falstaff and bis Dulcineas, and Anne Page and her lovers, and seems in the latter case so intent on her own interest, as totally to overlook the intentions of her employers. Her master, Doctor Caius, the Frenchman, and her fellow servant Jack Bugby, are very completely described. This last - mentioned person is rather quaintly commended by Mrs. Quickly as “ an honest, willing, kind fellow, as ever servant shall come in house withal, and I warrant you, po telltale, nor no breedbate ; his worst fault is that he is given to prayer; he is something peevish that way ; but no body but has his fault." The Welch Parson, Sir, Hugh Evans (a title which in those days was given to the clergy) is an excellent character in all respects. He is as respectable as he is laughable. He has “ very good discretions, and very odd humours.” The duel scene with Caius gives him an opportunity to shew his “ cholers and his tremblings of mind,” his valour and his melancholy, in an irresistible manner. In the dialogue, which at his mother's request he holds with his pupil, William Page, to shew his progress in learning, it is hard to say whether the simplicity of the master or the scholar is the greatest. Nym, Bardolph, and Pistol, are but the shadows of what they were ; and Justice Shallow himself has little of his con
But his cousin, Slender, makes up for the deficiency. He is a very potent piece of imbecility. In him the pretensions of the worthy Gloucestershire family are well kept up, and