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F all the loved and loving female characters of Shaks
pere-although some may display a lustre more intense—there is not one that cheers the eye with a more mild and modest radiance than the spotless jewel, Imogen. Harsh and difficult as sometimes is the diction of the play, the sweetness of her nature o'erinforms it with delightful associations; we think of her as of the pine-apple in its prickly enclosure ; or as of the delicious milk in the husky shell of the cocoa-nut. In the clear heaven of that unclouded mind, the wearied spirit obtains glimpses of human truth and unsuspecting gentleness that well, indeed, “may make us less forlorn." No impure thought can dwell in the atmosphere that is perfumed by her breath; her bed-chamber becomes the very temple of Diana ; and we not only feel the poetic beauty, but could almost believe the literal truth of Iachimo's splendid hyperbole:-
“The flame o' the taper
Posthumus displays one of those respectable, but imperfect natures, whose innocence (in more senses than one) disposes them to be “as tenderly led by the nose as asses are." In yielding to the suggestions of Iachimo, to the disparagement of such a being, and one so well known to him, as Imogen, he appears, for the moment, little less guilty, and a great deal more provoking, than the villain himself. His bitter repentance, however, and general demeanour in the last Act, induce us to forgive him, were it but in humble imitation of his charming Wife : and the same feeling, founded on similar penitence and remorse, may almost be extended to the acute, unprincipled Iachimo, when we consider that the credulity of the one, combined with the scoundrelism of the other, has been the unconscious cause of so much delightful incident and poetry. The minor characters—Cymbeline and his Queen, the Brothers of Imogen, Belarius, Cloten, Lucius, and the rest-- are all instinct with the life-giving power of Shakspere, although he has not put out his greatest strength in their delineation.
In order properly to enjoy this exquisite, though irregular drama, we must cast aside the “considering cap" of scientific criticism, and follow the Poet guilelessly, wherever he may choose to "wander at his own sweet will.” The dim and remote era in which the action is supposed to pass, will dispose the really “gentle reader" to dispense with much of that probability, which he naturally looks for in productions of more definite pretensions. He must consider the play as a dramatic romance; and when he has mastered its occasional difficulties of versification, he will read it again, and again, and again—as all poetry should be read to be properly appreciated—and find it a "perpetual source of nectared sweets, where no crude surfeit reigns.” The mountain scenes between the Brothers and their supposed Father ; the instinctive affection which immediately displays itself between Imogen and the noble boys ; all the delicate and pathetic circumstances attending her supposed death; these, and a hundred other beauties in the language, breathe the very air of Nature in her loveliest aspect. They exhibit all the out-of-door sweetness and simplicity of Isaak Walton, mingled with a poetry and passion of a far higher and more recondite description.
“CYMBELINE” was first published in the original folio. Its domestic incidents appear to have been mainly derived from “ Boccaccio's DECAMERON” (ninth story, second day), though probably filtered through various channels before they reached the dramatist. The historic portion is founded on “ HOLInshed's CHRONICLE;" according to which, Cymbeline, or Kymbeline, became king of the Britons in the nineteenth year of the reign of Augustus.
CYMBELINE, King of Britain.
QUEEN, Wife to CYMBELINE
a Dutch Gentleman, a Spanish Gentleman, Musicians, Officers,
SCENE, Sometimes in BRITAIN, sometimes in ITALY
Scene I.-Britain. The Garden behind Cym- | He purposed to his wife's sole son (a widow, BELINE's Palace.
That late he married), hath referred herself
Unto a poor but worthy gentleman: she's wedded; Enter two Gentlemen.
Her husband banished; she imprisoned: all 1st Gent. You do not meet a man but frowns: Is outward sorrow; though I think the king our bloods
Be touched at very heart.
1st Gent. He that hath lost her, too: so is the 2nd Gent. But what's the matter?
queen, 1st Gent. His daughter, and the heir of 's king- That most desired the match : but not a courtier, dom, whom
Although they wear their faces to the bent