Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

death no more dreadfully but as a drunken sleep; careless, reckless, and fearless of what's past, present, and to come." Hle is a fine antithesis to the morality and hypocrisy of the other characters of the play. Barnardine is Caliban transported from Prospero's wizard island to the forests of Bohemia or the prisons of Vienna. . He is a creature of bad habits, as Caliban is of gross instincts.

Ile has, however, a strong notion of the natural fitness of things, according to his own sensations-—" He has been drinking hard all night, and he will not be hanged that day"and Shakspeare has let him off at last. We do not understand why the philosophical German critic, Schlegel, should be so severe on those pleasant persons, Lucio, Pompey, and Master Froth, as to call them“ wretches." They appear all mighly comfortable in their occupations, and determined to pursue thein, "as the flesh and fortune shall serve." A very good ex pussure of the want of self knowledge and contempt for others, which is so common in this world, is put into the mouth of Abhorn, the jailor, when the Protest proposes to associate Pompy with him in his office_- A bawd, sir? Fie upon him, he will discredit our mystery." And the same answer would serve, in nine instances out of ten, to the same kind of remark, “ Go to, sir, you weh equally; a father will turn the scale." Shakspeare was in de sense the least mural of all writers; for morality (commmly s) called) is made up of antipathies; and his talent consisted in sympathy with human nature, in all its shapes, degrees, depres. sions, and elevations. The object of the pedantio malist is to find out the bad in everything : his was to show that "there is Sie soul of golress in thingsevil." Esen Master Barnarline is not left to the mercy of what others think of bım; but, when he comes in, spraks for himself, and pleads his own caus, as well as if counsel had been assigned him. In one sense, S!.ak. speare was no moralist at all: in another, he was the great, st of all muralis's. He was a moralist in the same sens in wh: A nature is one. He taught what he had learnt from brr. lle showed the greatest hoowledge of humanity, with the greatest felluw.feeling for it.

One of the mmt dramatic passages in the present pay is the interview between Claudio and his sister, when she comes to inform him of the conditions on which Angelo will spare his life.

1

“Claudio. Let me know the point.

ISABELLA. O, I do fear thee, Claudio: and I quake,
Lest thou a feverous life should'st entertain,
And six or seven winters more respect
Than a perpetual honor. Darist thou die ?
The sense of death is most in apprehension ;
And the poor beetle, that we tread upon,
In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great
As when a giant dies.

CLAUDIO. Why give you me this shame?
Think you I can a resolution fetch
From flowery tenderness; if I must die,
I will encounter darkness as a bride,
And hug it in mine arms.

ISABELLA. There spake my brother! there my father's grave
Did utter forth a voice! Yes, thou must die:
Thou art too noble to conserve a life
In base appliances. This outward-sainted deputy-
Whose settled visage and deliberate word
Nips youth i' the head, and follies doth emmew,
As falcon doth the fowl—is yet a devil.

CLAUDIO. The princely Angelo ?

ISABELLA. Oh, 'tis the cunning livery of hell,
The damned'st body to invest and covers
In princely guards ! Dost thou think, Claudio,
If I would yield him iny virginity,
Thou might'st be freed?

CLAUDIO. Oh heavens! it cannot be.

ISABELLA. Yes, he would give it thee, for this rank offence,
So to offend him still: this night's the time
That I should do what I abhor to name,
Or else thou dy'st to morrow.

Claudio. Thou shalt not do 't.

ISABELLA. Oh, were it but my life,
P'd throw it down for your deliverance.
As frankly as a pin,

CLAUDIO. Thanks, dear Isabel.
ISABELLA Be ready, Claudio, for your death to-morrow.

CLAUDIO. Yes.- Has he affections in him,
That thus can make him bite the law by the nose ?
When he would force it, sure it is no sin;
Or of the deadly seven it is the least.
ISABELLA. Which is the least ?

[ocr errors]

Claudio. If it were damnable, he, being so wise,
Why would he for the momentary trick
Be perdurably find? Oh, Isabel!

ISABELLA. What says my brother ?
CLAUDIO. Death is a fearful thing.
ISABELLA. And shamed life a hateful.

CLAUDIO. Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fery foods, or to reside
In thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprison'd in the viewles winds,
And blown with restless violence found about
The pendant world; or to be worse than worst
Of those, that lawless and incertain thouxhts
Imagine howling ! -'uis too horrible !
The weariest and most loathed worldly life,
That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment
Can lay on nature, is a paradise
To what we fear of death.

ISAJELLA. Alas! alas !

CLAUDIO. Sweet sister, let me live:
What sin you do to save a brother's life,
Nature dispenses with the derd so far,
That it becomes a virtue."

What adds to the dramatic beauty of this scene and the effect of Claudio's passionate attachment to life is, that it immediately follows the Duke's lecture to him, in the character of the Fnar, recommending an absolute indifference to it.

- " Reason thus with life,
If I do luse thee, I do lume a thing
That none but fools would keep: a breath thou art.
Servile to all the skycy influences
That do thun habitation, where thou krep'e,
Hourly afflict: merely, thou art death's fool;
For him thou labor'st by thy fight to shun,
And yet run'st toward him still, thou art tot nuble;
For all the accommodations, that thou bear'st,
Are nurod by baseness: thou art by no means valiant ;
Furthou dit tear the suft and teoder ferd
Of a paip with thy best of res! ss slep,
And that thou oft pturuk'st, yet grumly fear'et

Thy death, which is no more. Thou art not thyself :
For thou exist'st on many a thousand grains
That issue out of dust : happy thou art not;
For what thou hast not, still thou striv'st to get;
And what thou hast, forget'st; thou art not certain ;
For thy complexion shifts to strange effects,
After the moon; if thou art rich, thou art poor ;
For, like an ass, whose back with ingots bows,
Thou bear'st thy heavy riches but a journey,
And death unloads thee: friend thou hast none;
For thy own bowels which do call thee sire,
The mere effusion of thy proper loins,
Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum,
For ending thee no sooner : thou hast nor youth, nor age;
But, as it were, an after-dinner's sleep,
Dreaming on both : for all thy blessed youth,
Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms
Of palsied eld; and when thou art old and rich,
Thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty,
To make thy riches pleasant. What's yet in this,
That bears the name of life? Yet in this life
Lie hid more thousand deaths; yet death we fear,
That makes these odds all even.”

THE

MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.

Tue Merry Wives of Windsor is no doubt a very amusing play, with a great deal of humor, character, and nature in it; but we should have liked it much better, if any one else had been the hero of it, instead of Falstaff. We could have been contented if Shakspeare had not been “ commanded to show the knight in love.” Wits and philosophers, for the most part, do not shine in that character; and Sir Jolin himseif, by no means, comes off with flying colors. Many people complain of the degradation and insults to which Don Quixote is so frequently exposed in his various adventures. But what are the uncon. scious indignities which he suffers, compared with the sensable mortifications which Falstaff is made to bring upon himself ! What are the blows and buffetings which the Don receives from the staves of Yanguesian carriers, or from Sancho Panza's more hard-hearted hands, compared with the contamination of the buck-basket, the disguise of the fat woman of Brentford, and the horns of Herne the hunter, which are discovered on Sir John's head! In reading the play, we indeed wash him well through all these discomfitures, but it would have been as well if he had not got into them. Falstaff, in The MERRY WIVES OF WINDSIK, is not the man he was in the two parts of Henry Il. His wit and eloquence have left him. Instead of making a butt of others, he is made a butt of by them. Neither is there a single partale of love in him to excuse his follies ; he is merely a designing, bare-faced knase, and an unsuccessful one. The serne with Ford as Master Brum, ulud that with Samples, Slender's man,

« VorigeDoorgaan »