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the Two Gentlemen of Verona, Valentine, who has been a despiser of love, meets with his fate; and
Life is altered now;
Upon the very naked name of love. Proteus claims the right of preferring his own fiancée ; to which Valentine replies:
And I will help thee to prefer her too.
“Why, Valentine," replies Proteus, "what braggardism is this?” But Valentine replies :
Pardon me, Proteus; all I can is nothing
She is mine own.
In A Midsummer-Night's Dream there is a juice which the sportive Puck squeezes into sleeping eyes, with the result that, when they awake, they adore the first object upon which they chance to alight. Thus enchanted, even Titania, the dainty queen of the fairies, takes into her lap the ass-head of Bottom and thus apostrophizes that transformed weaver:
Come, sit thee down upon this flowery bed,
While I thy amiable cheeks do coy,
And kiss thy large, fair ears, my gentle joy.
Is not the insinuation, that love is such a spell, able to transform the world and to make things appear to loving eyes very different from what they are?
It is worthy of note that the scenes of these gay comedies are nearly all laid in places remote-such as Venice, Padua, Illyria, the Forest of Arden, and the like. The truth thus shadowed forth is, that love creates a world of its own, very unlike the everyday world of reality. By love human beings are lifted above the common earth, receiving the password into a region of fantasy, illuminated by a light that never was on sea or land. In this fairyland we see the bright creatures of Shakspeare's fancy roaming--the faithful but too venturesome Julia; the wellnigh distraught Helena; the sprightly Rosalind, “a gallant curtle-axe upon her thigh, a boarspear in her hand ";
the brave Orlando; the melancholy Orsino; and all the rest. They are in search of one another in that land of mystery and glamour; for, as one of these Comedies says,
“ the course of true love never did run smooth”. Too often they love the wrong people. Jack is sighing for Jill, but Jill is sighing not for him, but for James or Peter, who in his turn is sighing not for her, but for someone else. Hence the weary pursuit; hence a hundred disappointments. Yet everything comes right in the end, and true love has its reward.
Sometimes it is crabbed experience which, having outlived its own illusions, tries to keep youthful hearts apart; but these generally manage to elude the Argus-eyes and get their own way. A brilliant example is that of sweet Anne Page in The Merry Wives of W’indsor. When the night of her marriage arrived, her father intended her to marry the stupid and tongue-tied Slender, and her mother thought she was safe in the hands of the rich Dr. Caius; but she gave them all the slip and appeared as a married woman under the escort of the handsome Fenton.
The most astonishing wooer of all is Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew. The heroine Kate seems untameable as a wildcat; she bites her own sister and makes every man fly from her frowning looks and blistering tongue. But Petruchio, having taken her in hand, so completely eclipses the most extra
vagant flights of her ill-temper by waywardness of his own that she follows him first in bewildered astonishment and ultimately in genuine submission. It is not a pleasing piece; and we are glad to learn that it was not of Shakspeare's invention-he merely worked over an old play-yet at the bottom of its extravagance there is a
true idea-that temper and selfishness may be cured by seeing themselves in another. Kate was impenitent as long as she was shut up in herself; but, when she saw the visage of her own ill-humour in the mirror of her husband's madness, she learned how absurd had been her own conduct and became a reasonable member of society.
In married love the only thing that Shakspeare laughs at is jealousy. This he does in The Comedy of Errors, where, however, the satire directed against Adriana, the jealous wife, is lacking in lightness of touch. In The Merry Wives of Windsor the treatment is much more successful; and Ford, the jealous husband, is converted to the most unbounded confidence in his wife and to a much more healthy estimate of the world.
A few words may here be said of Shakspeare's treatment of illicit love. It is too well known how this subject has monopolized the stage. There have been periods when it has been almost the sole theme, the plot of every drama hovering round some indecent incident. Too often marriage was made a mock of;
the wronged husband was jeered at; and the bold seducer and the gay but unfaithful wife were the hero and heroine. In some quarters to this day these are the staple situations on the stage. Now, if anything of the kind were to be found in Shakspeare, it would be in his Gayer Comedies; but nothing of the sort exists there. In these plays there is a certain amount of coarseness. In the by-play of conversation the interlocutors take liberties which belong to a state of manners that has happily passed away; and the changes are rung with wearisome iteration on a few words and phrases of a dubious character. Even to the women, such as Rosalind, in As You Like It, there is attributed a licence which is anything but womanly, and is no doubt to be accounted for partly by the fact that in Shakspeare's time the female parts were played by men, women not being permitted to appear on the stage. But, in studying these Comedies closely, I have been impressed by the fact that indecency never enters into the substance of the plot : in some degree it may adhere to minor details, but it never is the pivot on which the action turns.
The only one of these ten dramas in which illicit love has a prominent place is The Merry Wives of Windsor, where Sir John Falstaff assails the virtue of Mrs. Page and Mrs. Ford; but the gay knight is represented as at that stage of his career when his fortunes are not only on the decline, but verging