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and almost as complete a picture of himself as he did in Hamlet. Unluckily his hand had grown weaker in the ten years' interval, and he gave such loose rein to his idealizing habit that the portrait is neither so veracious nor so lifelike. The explanation of all this will be given later; it is enough for the moment to state that as Posthumus is perhaps the completest portrait of him that we have after his mental shipwreck, we must note the traits of it carefully, and see what manner of man Shakespeare took himself to be towards the end of his career.

It is difficult to understand how the commentators have been able to read “ Cymbeline” without seeing the likeness between Posthumus and Hamlet. The wager which is the theme of the play may have hindered them a little, but as they found it easy to excuse its coarseness by attributing lewdness to the

time, there seems to have been no reason for not r recognizing Posthumus. Posthumus is simply a

staider Hamlet considerably idealized. I am not at all sure that the subject of the play was void of offence in the time of Elizabeth; all finer spirits must even then have found it puerile and coarse. What would Spenser have said about it? Shakespeare

used the wager because of the opportunities it gave ! him of painting himself and an ideal woman. His

view of it is just indicated; Iachimo says:

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I make my wager rather against your confidence than her reputation: and, to bar your offence herein too, I durst attempt it against any lady in the world.”

But in spite of the fact that Iachimo makes his insult general, Posthumus warns him that:

“If she remain unseduced .

for your ill opinion,


and the assault you have made to her chastity, you shall answer me with your sword.”

From this it appears that the bet was distasteful to Posthumus; it is not so offenceful to him as it should have been according to our modern temper, but this shortcoming, an unconscious shortcoming, is the only fault which Shakespeare will allow in his hero. In the first scene of the first act Posthumus is praised as men never praise the absent without a personal motive; the First Gentleman says of him:

“I do not think
So fair an outward and such stuff within
Endows a man but he.”

The Second Gentleman replies:

"You speak him far;"

and the First Gentleman continues :

I do extend him, sir, within himself;
Crush him together, rather than unfold
His measure duly.”

And as if this were not enough, this gentlemaneulogist goes on to tell us that Posthumus has sucked in "all the learnings ” of his time “ as we do air,”

» and further :

“ He lived in courtWhich rare it is to do—most praised, most loved; A sample to the young'st, to the more mature A glass that feated them; and to the graver A child that guided dotards."

This gross praise is ridiculously unnatural, and outrages our knowledge of life; men are much more apt to criticize than to praise the absent; but it shows a prepossession on Shakespeare's part in favour of Posthumus which can only be explained by the fact that in Posthumus he was depicting himself. Every word is significant to us, for Shakespeare evidently tells us here what he thought about himself, or rather what he wished to think, towards the end of his life. It is impossible to believe that he was

most praised, most loved "; men do not love or praise their superiors in looks, or intellect.

The first words which Posthumus in this same scene addresses to Imogen, shows the gentle Shakes


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peare nature:

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O lady, weep no more, lest I give cause
To be suspected of more tenderness
Than doth become a man.”

And when Imogen gives him the ring and tells him to wear it till he woos another wife, he talks to her exactly as Romeo would have talked :

“ How! how! another ? -
You gentle gods, give me but this I have,
And sear up my embracements from a next
With bonds of death! [Putting on the ring.

Remain, remain thou here
While sense can keep it on.”

And he concludes as self-depreciating Hamlet would have concluded:

"And sweetest, fairest,
As I my poor self did exchange for you,
To your so infinite loss, so in our trifles
I still win of you; for my sake wear this:
It is a manacle of love; I'll place it
Upon this fairest prisoner.
[Putting a bracelet on her arm.


In his fight with Cloten he is depicted as a rare swordsman of wonderful magnanimity. Pisanie says:

“My master rather played than fought, And had no help of anger."


I call this gentle kindness which Posthumus displays, the birthmark of Shakespeare; he had “no help of anger.” As the play goes on we find Shakespeare's other peculiarities, or Hamlet's. Iachimo represents Posthumus as “merry,' " gamesome,

” 6 the Briton reveller ”; but curiously enough Imogen answers as Ophelia might have answered about Hamlet:

· When he was here, He did incline to sadness; and ofttimes Not knowing why."


This uncaused melancholy that distinguishes Romeo, Jaques, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Vincentio is not more characteristic of the Hamlet-Shakespeare nature than the way Posthumus behaves when Iachimo tries to make him believe that he has won the wager. Posthumus is convinced almost at once; jumps to the conclusion, indeed, with the heedless rapidity of the naïve, sensitive, quick-thinking man who has cultivated his emotions and thoughts by writing in solitude, and not the suspicions and distrust of others which are developed in the market-place. One is reminded of Goethe's famous couplet:

“Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille,

Sich ein Charakter in dem Strom der Welt."

Posthumus is all in fitful extremes; not satisfied with believing the lie, he gives Iachimo Imogen's ring as well, and bursts into a diatribe:

Let there be no honour Where there's beauty; truth, where semblance; love, Where there's another man,"

and so forth. Even Philario, who has no stake in the matter, is infinitely harder to convince:

Have patience, sir, And take your ring again; 'tis not yet won: It may be probable she lost it.”

Then this “ unstable opposite," Posthumus, demands his ring back again, but as soon as Iachimo swears that he had the bracelet from her arm, Posthumus swings round again to belief from sheer rapidity of thought. Again Philario will not be convinced. He says:

“Sir, be patient,
This is not strong enough to be believed

Of one persuaded well of" But Posthumus will not await the proof for which he has asked. He is convinced upon suspicion, as Othello was, and the very nimbleness of his Hamletintellect, seeing that probabilities are against him, entangles him in the snare. Even his servant Pisanio will not believe in Imogen's guilt though his master assures him of it. Shakespeare does not notice this peculiar imprudent haste of his hero, as he notices, for example, the hasty speech of Hotspur by letting Harry of England imitate it, simply because the quick-thinking was his own; while the hurried stuttering speech was foreign to him. Posthumus goes on to rave against women as Hamlet did; as all men do who do not understand them:

For even to vice
They are not constant, but are changing still.”

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