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will hang upon her lips, so that by kissing she may repair the wrong. Though defeated in battle, her object is accomplished, for she feels and knows that she has saved her father from “the rack of this rough world.”
TWELFTH NIGHT.-In 1601 this comedy was produced, and on the second of February 1602, it was acted on the celebration of the Readers' Feast at the Middle Temple. It was first printed in the folio of 1623. Two Italian plays, composed upon a novel of Bandello's, are said to be the source from whence Shakspere drew the serious incidents of his comedy, and there is some slight resemblance between the story told in each play and that told by Shakspere. It was however not from these plays that Shakspere derived such incidents which he has used, when they suited his purpose, but from an old translation of the novel itself. There is no affinity of language or ideas to be found in the Italian plays, nor in the novel, when compared with Shakspere's comedy, who has drawn entirely upon his own interminable resources for the poetry and diction, of this, one of his grandest character plays. The comic characters, Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Malvolio, and others are pure creations of the poet. Self esteem is the chief feature of Malvolio, whose character is truly described by Maria, when she says, he is “an affectioned ass, that cons state without book, and utters it by great swaths: the best persuaded of himself, so crammed, he thinks, with cxcellencies.” This description is also confirmed by his mistress, the lady Olivia. Feste is the opposite of the conceited steward, for he possesses
all the good qualities which Malvolio affects, and only affects, while he pretends not to possess them.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.—This comedy was produced in the year 1595, and was first printed and published in the year 1600, by Thomas Fisher, a second edition printed by James Roberts, was published in the same year. The custom, “more honoured in the breach than in the observance," of charging Shakspere with deriving his plots from the works of other authors, hath not been failed to be made, in regard to this truly poetical play, though in this instance, it is not sustainable, for no work is yet known from whence Shakspere could have derived his plot. It has been said that Chaucer's Knight's tale and Plutarch’s Life of Theseus, furnished hints that Shakspere profited by, but in neither of the named sources, is there the slightest trace of a similar story to that which is told in the comedy. There cannot be a doubt that the source of this comedy, is to be attributed to Shakspere’s great knowledge of folklore, his complete acquaintance with the superstitions of the day, and from his own luxuriant imagination sprang the conception and the development of this lovely dream, which is a splendid poetic effort of a great poet's brain. The characters are all finely and truly conceived, and the language of each is consonant with the character. Throughout the whole of the comedy, there is a vein of the highest poetry that charms both the reader and the spectator, for it is equally fitted for the closet or the stage, and it is as delicate in its conception as it is beautiful in its execution. Bully Bottom, the weaver, is full of self-esteem. He never doubts his own capacity, and he would undertake all and everybody's business, so confident is he in his own powers. His colleague Quince, and the rest of the “rude mechanicals," in conjunction with himself, form a rough contrast to the delicate play of the fairies. The material world is here opposed to the ideal; the unimaginative to that which is most fanciful, and this contrast serves to give a prominence to both.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.—In 1600, this comedy was first published in 4to., and it was not again printed till it appeared in the folio of 1623. The serious portion of the plot of this comedy, it is said, may be traced in the 5th canto of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and in Spenser's Faery Queen, book 2, canto 4, but the chief portion of its plot, was in all probability derived from a novel by Bandello, to which Shakspere has added, however, the principal parts. The gentle Hero, a jewel so rare that “the world” cannot “buy such ;" Claudio who hath so “borne himself beyond the promise of his age,” and the exquisite word-talkers, witty and pointed, Beatrice and Benedick, are Shakspere's own coinage. The comic portions of the comedy are entirely the work of Shakspere, the inimitable Dogberry, and his choice companions of the watch, the worthies Verges, Sexton and Seacole are his own, and deeply we stand indebted to the bard for those exquisite creations. Even the incidents of the original tale he has varied at his pleasure, and made them more subservient to the dramatic interest. The characters of Beatrice and Benedick are foreshadowed in his Biron and Rosaline, the latter being his early attempt, the former, the finished production of his master mind. In the first two acts, silentless and retirement are the distinguishing features in the character of Hero, and she thinks with Claudio that
“Silence is the perfectest herald of joy." The talkativeness of Beatrice and Benedick are the necessary contrast to the reticence of Hero and Claudio, without which the dramatic composition would not be effective nor true.
TAE TAMING OF THE SHREW.--In 1594, a comedy was published having for its title, “A Pleasant conceited Historie called the Taming of a Shrew," but, it bears little or no relation to Shakspere's comedy, which was first produced in 1596, and first printed in the folio of 1623. The name of the author of the elder play is not known, and the comedy is a very poor production, lacking humour and character. Shakspere made but little use of the incidents contained in the work of his predecessor, nor did he derive any of his characterization from the elder play. The life and spirit which marks Shakspere's “ Taming of the Shrew,” is entirely his own, for there is nought approaching it in the crude effort of the earlier damatist, neither is the poetry of the same nature, the diction of Shakspere being immeasurably superior.
The character of Petruchio, is admirably conceived and most completely developed. The great knowledge which Shakspere possessed of human nature, has made him thoroughly consistent in his drawing of Petruchio, who possesses humour, is coarse, unscrupulous, full of determination, resolved to have his own way, and possesses a strong admiration of, and a still stronger
desire to possess “ wealth,” which is the “burden ” of his “wooing dance.” If “ wealthily" he wives, then “happily” he marries, and when told of one that is “rich, and very rich,” he will have her, though she were “as curst and shrewd as Socrates' Xantippe.” He also has a personal liking for Katharine, his “superdainty Kate," “ the prettiest Kate in Christendom,” which feeling takes root at the first interview and gradually crops up. Tame Kate he will, to do this he has resolved, and in all probability effects his purpose more securely by this means than he would have done by his hectoring blustering manner. The tamed one evidently perceives, beneath the rude external, traces of love, and by those traces, though subtle, faint, and indistinct, she herself is personally attracted, and thus is made to own, when speaking of her sex, that she is
“asham'd that women are so simple,
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.—This tragedy was produced at the commencement of the year 1608 and was first printed in the folio of 1623. The materials were in all probability derived from Sir Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch. The tragedy is written in the matured style of Shakspere and the dignity and manliness of Antony is preserved throughout. Though the atmosphere of the tragedy is of a sensual character, there is no attempt to make it alluring. In no form or way has the author made vice attractive, nor is any sympathy excited for the proceedings and the fate which befalls Antony and his bewitcher, the voluptuous Cleopatra.