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Origines Judiciales, p. 346, edit. 1671.

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ment; they had higher aims, and more important effects, and, while ostensibly constructed for the purposes of compliment and entertainment, either indirectly inculcated some lesson of moral wisdom, or more immediately obtained their end, by impersonating the vices and the virtues, and exhibiting a species of ethic drama

They had also the merit of conveying no inconsiderable fund of instruction from the stores of mythology, history, and philosophy. Of this the masques of Jonson afford abundant proof, containing, as they do, not only the common superficial knowledge on these subjects, but displaying such a mass of recondite learning, illustrative of the manners, opinions, customs, and antiquities of the ancient world, as would serve to extend the information of the educated, while they delighted and instructed the body of the people.

To these classical diversions, these eruditæ voluptates, which were remarkably frequent during the whole era of Shakspeare's existence, we may confidently ascribe some portion of that intimacy with the records of history, the fictions of paganism, and the reveries of philosophy, which our poet so copiously exhibits throughout his poems and plays, as well as no small accession to the wild and fantastic visionary forms that so pre-eminently delight us in the golden dreams of his imagination.

Among the numerous scenes and descriptions which owe their birth, in our author's dramas, to these superb combinations of mechanism and poesy, we shall select two passages that more peculiarly point out the manner in which he has availed himself of their scenery and arrangement.

“There is a passage in Antony and Cleopatra,” observes Mr. Warlon, “where the metaphor is exceedingly beautiful; but where the beauty both of the expression and the allusion is lost, unless we recollect the frequency and the nature of these shows (the Pageants) in Shakspeare's age. I must cite the whole of the context, for the sake of the last hemistich.

Ant. Sometime we see a cloud that's dragonish,

A vapour sometime, like a bear or lion;
A towred citadel, a pendant rock,
A forked mountain, or blue promontory
With trees upon't, that nod unto the world,
And mock our eyes with air: Thou hast seen these signs;

They are Black Vesper's Pageants." This illustrious critic, however, should have continued the quotation somewhat further; for the next three lines include a piece of imagery immediately taken from the same source, and more worthy of remark than any preceding allusion :

Eros. Ay, my lord.
Ant. That, which is now a horse; even with a thought,

The Rack dislimns; and makes it indistinct,
As water is in water."

Act iv. sc. 12. The meaning of the expression, “ The Rack dislimns," is clearly ascertained by a reference to Ben Jonson's "Hymenæal Masque" already quoted, in which

“ occurs the following striking passage :

Here the upper part of the scene, which was all of clouds, and made artificially to swell and ride like the Rack, began to open, and the air clearing, in the top thereof was discovered Juno silling in a throne, supported by two beautiful peacocks.—Round about her sale the spirits of the ayre, in several colours, making musique. Above her the region of fire, with a continual motion, was seen to whirl circularly, and Jupiter standing in the top (figured the beaven) brandishing his thunder. Beneath her the rainbow Iris, and, on the iwo sides eight ladies, allired richly, and alike, in the most celestial colours, who represented her powers, as she is the Governess of Marriage.'

This extract, also, together with the one given in a preceding page, descriptive of the Citizen's Pageant in honour of James and his Queen, 1604, will throw a

* The Workes of Benjamin Jonson, fol. 164. Masques, p. 135.

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