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their interest more on the story they tell. Pericles, for example, in total defiance of the dramatic unities, moves from country to country and skips from year to year, telling a story on which, it would appear, the audience of Shakspeare's day hung with straining interest, although in our minds it rather awakens surprise that Shakspeare can have had any hand in putting together such an incoherent medley. All's Well That Ends Well
not unlike, in construction, to a modern novel. It is Shakspeare's version of the ever-fresh story of the Prodigal Son, who goes from home in search of adventure, but really in flight from his own happiness, and comes to himself after a bitter experience of the emptiness of the world. Several of the characters bear a striking resemblance to those of Thackeray's Pendennis —the heroine to Laura, the Countess to Pendennis' mother, Lafeu to Major Pendennis, and Parolles to Captain Costigan; although it must be confessed that, in such a comparison, the dramatist is a sufferer, his version of the sowing of a young man's wild oats and of his redemption through the love of woman being but a rude and slight sketch in comparison with the perfect picture painted by the hand of the great master of the modern novel.
The incidents on which these Graver Comedies chiefly turn are the reconciliation of husbands and wives, who have been separated by jealousy, the finding of children, who have been lost, the reunion of parted
friends and the forgiveness of injuries; and it is impossible not to wonder whether the preoccupation of the poet's mind with such themes had any connexion with his personal history. The year in which he returned to his native Stratford-on-Avon, where he spent his closing years, though still writing for the London theatres, and where, it is understood, he had left his wife and family during his residence in the metropolis, is not accurately known; but probably his visits to the place had become more frequent before he finally settled there, and his mind had been becoming more and more set on escaping from the excitement of the city and living permanently among the sights and sounds of the country.
There is in Cymbeline a fervid description of the enjoyments of the country, coupled with a severe criticism of the manners and customs of refined society, put into the mouth of Belisarius, who is a brother of the king but banished from the court. In this play, too, and in A Winter's Tale, there are charming descriptions of country sights, but especially of flowers. Perdita, in the latter play, says:
Here's flowers for you,
And with him rises weeping; and later she speaks of
The flower-de-luce being one.
When daffodils begin to peer
With hey! the doxy over the dale-
For the red blood reigns in the winter's pale. Of course Shakspeare might have written such praises of country-life at any period of his history, for he had the experiences of his youth, spent in the country, to draw upon; but, occurring, as these do, in his later life,
1 If the literary pilgrim happen to visit Stratford-on-Avon when the stream of visitors is not flowing, he may spend a delightful hour in the garden of the birth-house, where specimens are growing of the flowers, shrubs and trees mentioned in the plays. In one of those laborious books which only a German could have written I find it stated that there are a hundred-and-thirteen plants mentioned in Shakspeare's works; and there they stand everyone with chapter and verse. According to the same authority the animals mentioned are a hundred-and-forty-four. KLOEPPER, Shakespeare-Realien : AltEnglands Kulturleben im Spiegel von Shakespeares Dichtungen.
they may betoken either his yearning for the landscapes of Warwickshire or his enjoyment of them after his return.
The brightest element in these plays is the number of young people they contain, radiant with the bloom of youth and running over with animal spirits. These have been lost to their parents, and for a time their lot is obscured by misfortunes; but ultimately they are found and restored to their rightful condition. One would be glad to believe that these figures are a reflection of the poet's happiness in his own children, with whom he was reunited in the latter part of his life. Marina in Pericles, Miranda in The Tempest, with her lover Ferdinand, Perdita in The Winter's Tale, with her lover Florizel, Diana in All's Well That Ends Well, and Guiderius and Arviragus, the two sons of the king in Cymbeline, belong to this attractive group.
The most charming of them all is Perdita. She is a king's daughter, but, having been lost in infancy, she is brought up in the house of a shepherd, who is supposed to be her father. In this lowly household she is engaged in the offices of a milkmaid; but she is, as someone calls her, “the queen of curds and cream” and, as another observer says, “the prettiest lowborn lass that ever ran on the greensward”. Her beauty has attracted the attention of the son of the
king of the land of her exile, who, in defiance of the supposed discrepancy of their conditions and the wrath of his father, has avowed his love and resolved to wed her. His vows are warm enough :
When you speak, sweet, I'd have you do it ever ; when you sing, I'd have you buy and sell so; so give alms; Pray so; and, for the ordering your affairs, To sing them too. When you do dance, I wish you A wave o' the sea, that you might ever do Nothing but that; move still, still so And own no other function ; each your doing, So singular in each particular, Crowns what you are doing in the present deeds That all your acts are queens.
There is hardly a brighter page in Shakspeare's entire works than the festival of the sheep-shearing, when she presides over the scene, but so modestly that the old shepherd, her supposed father, has to rally her spirits by recalling the example of his own old wife:
Fie, daughter, when my old wife lived, upon