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speare's prodigality in setting so slight a sketch in so rich a frame, and in bestowing this magnificent overture upon a piece of fun and buffoonery?
When Ægeon, failing to make up the necessary sum of money for his ransom, is on his way to be beheaded,
, and recognizes Antipholus of Ephesus whom he sees, as his son, while his son protests he does not know him, the pathetic note of the father's grief reaches its highest pitch.
“Not know my voice! O time's extremity!
The opportune arrival of Antipholus of Syracuse unravels the mystery and brings the comedy to a happy conclusion; but the serious and tragic background is nobly conceived, and adds greatly to the charm of the play. The comic notion of a series of errors arising from a similarity between twins evidently tickled Shakespeare's fancy, and we find him repeating it in “Twelfth Night,” in which a brother and a sister closely resemble each other. The same subject has been treated in Germany from the earliest times; in Italy even oftener than elsewhere, and in France Regnard wrote a comedy under the same name as that of Plautus, in which the treatment however is wholly different.
The chief point of interest in the “ Ménechmes” of Regnard, as far as concerns the comparative study of literature, is the degeneration which fraternal affection and all the higher feelings in general of human nature undergo in the world of rogues and sharpers from which Molière's successors drew their favourite heroes. The Knight Ménechme is nothing but a rascally adventurer, who makes arrangements with his valet to dupe his brother, a sort of rough and stupid Pourceaugnac. The scene is laid in Paris, where the two brothers have
just arrived unknown to each other. The valet goes to the custom-house to get his master's portmanteau, and returns with another one, bearing the name of Ménechme. Although it is not his portmanteau, his master, as it has his name on it, forces the lock and opens it, and finds within it a letter to his brother, written by a notary in Paris, who summons him to come and receive sixty thousand crowns left to him by his uncle's will, and to, espouse the fair lady Isabelle. The twin-brothers having been separated from childhood, and neither having heard the other spoken of since, had completely forgotten each other, and each supposed the other to be dead. The knight now learns from the notary's letter not only that his brother is alive, but also that he is about to inherit a tidy little fortune, and to make a most desirable marriage. From this moment the thought of cheating his brother out of his sixty thousand crowns and of his destined bride, takes possession of him and completely absorbs his mind. For the execution of his plans he relies upon the assistance of his valet, and still more upon the likeness to his brother, bestowed upon him by nature. He repairs in the first place to the notary, and receives the sixty thousand crowns, and then flies to Isabelle's house, where he gets himself accepted by the young lady and her father. The two knaves, the master and his valet, play all manner of tricks upon the other luckless Ménechme, and in one scene the valet even goes so far as to make the poor foolish fellow pay his brother's debts as his own. At the close of the play, when the recognition takes place, the knight, with hypocritical tears, throws himself on his brother's neck, exclaiming :
“My brother is that you? what a welcome sight!
Can I believe my eyes, that I have this delight ?”
"My brother, in truth ... My joy can't be said
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA.
ANALYSIS OF THE PLAY.
AMONGST all the allusions to classical antiquity that occur so constantly in Shakespeare's works, and more especially in his earlier plays, none are more frequent than those relating to the Trojan war. In the poem of "Lucrece," we have seen the much-wronged wife of Collatinus contemplating a picture of the destruction of Troy, with many sad applications to her own case. In
Henry VI.” the messenger who relates the death of the Duke of York to his sons, compares him to Hector holding the Greeks at bay (Pt. III., Act II., Sc. 1); and Henry VI. himself says to Warwick, "Farewell, my Hector, and my Troy's true hope” (Pt. III., Act IV., Sc. 8).
Mention is also made, in the same play, of Helen and Menelaus, of Priam, Nestor, Ulysses, and Sinon; and in “Much Ado about Nothing,” Benedict is declared to be as valiant “as Hector" (Act II., Sc. 2).
Similar instances may be found in Shakespeare's later plays, as in “ Antony and Cleopatra," where Antony, congratulating his companions-in-arms after their victory, says to them, “You have shown all Hectors” (Act IV., Sc. 8); and in “Coriolanus,” when Volumina blames Virgilia, who trembles lest her husband should be wounded (Act I. Sc. 3) :
“Away, you fool! it more becomes a man
At Grecian swords' contending." And further on, Aufidius hurls defiance at Coriolanus in these words (Act I., Sc. 8)
“ Wert thou the Hector That was the whip of your bragg'd progeny,
Thou should'st not scape me here." But it would be useless to multiply quotations. The point of special import and significance is that Shakespeare always shows a predilection for the Trojans, while the Greeks find but little favour in his sight.
This undoubted bias on his part exhibits itself in an especially lively manner, and has its widest scope, in “ Troilus and Cressida." There are far grander works amongst Shakespeare's plays, but there is none more curious,—there is none that affords more matter for reflection and commentary in the realms, not only of learning and of history, but also of æsthetics, than does "Troilus and Cressida.” Questions that we must endeavour to answer crowd upon us, touching the legendary accounts of the two lovers; the origin of Shakespeare's sympathy with the Trojans and with Hector, and of his grudge against Achilles and the Greeks; and touching the immediate sources of his knowledge, as well as the consideration of the real worth and value of this caricature of epic poetry, with respect to which the most conflicting judgments have been pronounced, it being declared on the one side to be the least deserving of Shakespeare's productions, while it is admired on the other side as one of his most brilliant masterpieces. But we must, in the first place, turn to the play itself.
Its personages are those which all accounts of the Trojan war have made familiar to us: Priam, Hector,
Paris, Æneas, Antenor, Calchas, Agamemnon, Achilles,
“Oh, woe is me,
This mention of his death, and the epithet of little significance added to his name, represents all the information concerning him given us by Homer. As to Cressida, daughter to Calchas, who is called Chryseyde by Chaucer, and Brisaida by Boccaccio, the Homeric origin of her name may be sought either in Chryseis, daughter to Chryses, a priest of Apollo, or in Briseis, the loved and lovely captive of Achilles; but her story has nothing in common with that of either Briseis or Chryseis. Shakespeare's Calchas bears very little resemblance to the character in Homer, and is a Trojan priest who has sided with the Greeks, and is in the Greek camp while his daughter remains at Troy with her uncle Pandarus, who plays an important part in the piece.
The prologue, which is thought by several critics not to have been written by Shakespeare, relates the story of the Trojan war, and announces the writer's
* There are two personages named Pandarus in Homer, and one in Virgil, but their name is all they have in common with the character in Shakespeare.