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graphs, as we noticed at the time, were very significant, and Slender's extraordinarily significant by reason of its striking and peculiar realism. Though an insignificant character, Slender is photographed for us by Shakespeare's contempt and hatred, just as this Rosaline is photographed by his passionate love, photographed again and again.
Shakespeare's usual way of describing the physical appearance of a man or woman, when he allowed himself to do it at all, which was seldom, was what one might call the ideal or conventional way. A good example is to be found in Hamlet's description of his father; he is speaking to his mother:
"Hyperion's curls, the front of Jove himself, An eye like Mars, to threaten and command, A station like the herald Mercury
New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill.”
In the special case I am considering Rosaline is less even than a secondary character; she is not a personage in the play at all. She is merely mentioned casually by Benvolio and then by Mercutio, and even Mercutio is not the protagonist; yet his mention of her is strikingly detailed, astonishingly realistic, in spite of its off-hand brevity. We have a photographic snapshot, so to speak, of this girl: she "torments" Romeo; she is "hard-hearted 99 ; a "white wench" with "black eyes "; twice in four lines she is called now 66 pale," now white plainly her complexion had no red in it, and was in startling contrast to her black eyes and hair. Manifestly this picture is taken from life, and it is just as manifestly the portrait of the “dark lady" of the sonnets.
As if to make assurance doubly sure, there is an
other description of this same Rosaline in another play, so detailed and striking, composed as it is of contrasting and startling peculiarities that I can only wonder that its full significance has not been appreciated ages ago. To have missed its meaning only proves that men do not read Shakespeare with love's fine wit.
The repetition of the portrait is fortunate for another reason: it tells us when the love story took place. The allusion to the "dark lady " in "Romeo and Juliet" is difficult to date exactly; the next mention of her in a play can be fixed in time with some precision. "Love's Labour's Lost" was revised by Shakespeare for production at Court during the Christmas festivities of 1597. When the quarto was published in 1598 it bore on its title-page the words, "A pleasant conceited comedy called 'Love's Labour's Lost.' As it was presented before Her Highnes this last Christmas. Newly corrected and augmented By W. Shakespeare." It is in the revised part that we find Shakespeare introducing his dark love again, and this time, too, curiously enough, under the name of Rosaline. Evidently he enjoyed the mere music of the word. Biron is an incarnation of Shakespeare himself, as we have already seen, and the meeting of Biron and his love, Rosaline, in the play is extremely interesting for us as Shakespeare in this revised production, one would think, would wish to ingratiate himself with his love, more especially as she would probably be present when the play was produced. Rosaline is made to praise Biron, before he appears, as a merry man and a most excellent talker; but when they meet they simply indulge in a tourney of wit, in which Rosaline more than holds her own, showing indeed astounding selfassurance, spiced with a little contempt of Biron;
"hard-hearted " Mercutio called it. Every word deserves to be weighed:
"Biron. Did not I dance with you in Brabant once? Ros. Did not I dance with you in Brabant once? Biron. I know you did.
Ros. How needless was it, then, to ask the question? Biron. You must not be so quick.
Ros. 'Tis long of you that spur me with such ques
Biron. Your wit's too hot, it speeds too fast, 'twill
Ros. Not till it leave the rider in the mire.
Biron. What time o' day?
Ros. The hour that fools should ask.
Biron. Now fair befall your mask!
Biron. Nay, then will I be gone."
Clearly this Rosaline, too, has Dian's wit and is not in love with Biron, any more than the Rosaline of "Romeo and Juliet 99 was in love with Romeo.
The next allusion is even more characteristic. Biron and Longaville and Boyet are talking; Longaville shows his admiration for one of the Princess's women, "the one in the white" he declares, "is a most sweet lady.
Biron. What is her name in the cap?
Boyet. Rosaline, by good hap.
Biron. Is she wedded or no?
Boyet. To her will, sir, or so.
Biron. You are welcome, sir: adieu."
This, "To her will, sir, or so," is exactly in the spirit of the sonnets: every one will remember the first two lines of sonnet 135:
"Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will, And Will to boot, and Will in overplus;"
That, "To her will, sir, or so," I find astonishingly significant, for not only has it nothing to do with the play and is therefore unexpected, but the characterdrawing is unexpected, too; maids are not usually wedded to their will in a double sense, and no other of these maids of honour is described at all.
A little later Biron speaks again of Rosaline in a way which shocks expectation. First of all, he rages at himself for being in love at all. "And I, forsooth in love! I, that have been love's whip!" Here I pause again, it seems to me that Shakespeare is making confession to us, just as when he admitted without reason that Jaques was lewd. Be that as it may, he certainly goes on in words which are astounding, so utterly unforeseen are they, and therefore the more characteristic:
"Nay, to be perjured, which is worst of all;
And, among three, to love the worst of all;"
The first line of this couplet, that he is perjured in loving Rosaline may be taken as applying to the circumstances of the play; but Shakespeare also talks of himself in sonnet 152 as "perjured," for he only swears in order to misuse his love, or with a side glance at the fact that he is married and therefore perjured when he swears love to one not his wife. It is well to keep this "perjured" in
But it is the second line which is the more astonishing; there Biron tells us that among the three of the Princess's women he loves "the worst of all." Up to this moment we have only been told kindly things of Rosaline and the other ladies; we
had no idea that any one of them was bad, much less that Rosaline was 66 the worst of all." The suspicion grows upon us, a suspicion which is confirmed immediately afterwards, that Shakespeare is speaking of himself and of a particular woman; else we should have to admit that his portraiture of Rosaline's character was artistically bad, and bad without excuse, for why should he lavish all this wealth of unpleasant detail on a mere subsidiary character? He goes on, however, to make the fault worse; he next speaks of his love Rosaline as—
"A whitely wanton with a velvet brow,
To pray for her! Go to! it is a plague."
It is, of course, a blot upon the play for Biron to declare that his love is a wanton of the worst. It is not merely unexpected and uncalled-for; it diminishes our sympathy with Biron and his love, and also with the play. But we have already found the rule trustworthy that whenever Shakespeare makes a mistake in art it is because of some strong personal feeling and not for want of wit, and this rule evidently holds good here. Shakespeare-Biron is picturing the woman he himself loves; for not only does he describe her as a wanton to the detriment of the play; but he pictures her precisely, and this Rosaline is the only person in the play of whom we have any physical description at all. Moreover, he has given such precise and repeated photographs of no other character in any of his plays:
"A whitely wanton with a velvet brow,
With two pitch-balls stuck in her face for eyes."