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—these scenes might give a new life for poetry to the most deadened imagination.'
• The wise and virtuous Belarius, who after living long as a hermit, again becomes a hero, is a venerable figure; the dexterous dissimulation and quick presence of mind of the Italian Iachimo is quite suitable to the bold treachery he plays; Cymbeline, the father of Imogen, and even her husband Posthumus, during the first half of the piece, are somewhat sacrificed, but this could not be otherwise ; the false and wicked queen is merely an instrument of the plot; she and her stupid son Cloten, whose rude arrogance is portrayed with much humour, are got rid of by merited punishment before the conclusion.'
Steevens objects to the character of Cloten in a note on the fourth act of the play, observing that he is represented at once as brave and dastardly, civil and brutish, sagacious and foolish, without that subtilty of distinction, and those shades of gradation between sense and folly, virtue and vice, which constitute the excellence of such mixed characters as Polonius in Hamlet, and the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet.' It should, however, be observed that Imogen has justly defined him that irregulous devil Cloten;' and Miss Seward, in one of her Letters, assures us that singular as the character of Cloten may appear, it is the exact prototype of a being she once knew. • The unmeaning frown of the countenance; the shuffling gait; the burst of voice; the bustling insignificance; the fever and ague fits of valour; the froward tetchiness; the unprincipled malice; and what is most curious, those occasional gleams of good sense, amidst the floating clouds of folly which generally darkened and confused the man's brain; and which, in the character of Cloten, we are apt to impute to a violation of unity in character, but in the sometime Captain C- -n I saw the portrait of Cloten was not out of nature.'
In the developement of the plot of this play the poet has displayed such consummate skill, and such minute attention to the satisfaction of the most anxious and scrupulous spectator, as to afford a complete refutation of Jobnson's assertion, that Shakspeare usually hurries over the conclusion of his pieces.
There is little conclusive evidence to ascertain the date of the composition of this play; but Malone places it in the year 1609. Dr. Drake, after Chalmers, has ascribed it to the year 1605.
CYMBELINE, King of Britain.
Sons to Cymbeline, disguised under the names ARVIRAGUS,
of Polydore and Cadwal, supposed Sons to Belarius.
Queen, Wife to Cymbeline,
Lords, Ladies, Roman Senators, Tribunes, Apparitions, a
Soothsayer, a Dutch Gentleman, a Spanish Gentleman, Musicians, Officers, Captains, Soldiers, Messengers, and other Attendants.
SCENE, sometimes in Britain ; sometimes in Italy,
SCENE I. Britain. The Garden behind Cymbe
Enter Two Gentlemen.
1 Gentleman. You do not meet a man but frowns: our bloods No more obey the heavens, than our courtiers; then Still seem, as does the king's1. 2 Gent.
But what's the matter? 1 Gent. His daughter, and the heir of his king
dom whom He purpos'd to his wife's sole son (a widow That late he married), hath referr'd herself
1. Our bloods [i. e. our dispositions or temperaments] are not more regulated by the heavens, by every skyey influence, than our courtiers are by the disposition of the king: when he frowns every man frowns. Blood is used in old phraseology for dispo-; sition or temperament. So in King Lear :
Were it my fitness
To let these hands obey my blood.” And in The Yorkshire Tragedy, 1608:
. For 'tis our blood to love what we are forbidden.' The following passage in Greene's Never too Late, 4to. 1599, illustrates the thought: If the king smiled, every one in court was in his jollitie ; if he frowned, their plumes fell like peacock's feathers, so that their outward presence depended on his inward passions.'
Unto a poor but worthy gentleman: She's wedded;
heart. 2 Gent.
None but the king ? 1 Gent. He, that hath lost her, too: so is the queen, That most desir'd the match : But not a courtier, Although they wear their faces to the bent Of the king's looks, hath a heart that is not Glad at the thing they scowl at. 2 Gent.
And why so? 1 Gent. He that hath miss'd the princess, is a thing Too bad for bad report: and he that hath her, (I mean, that married her,-alack, good man!And therefore banish’d) is a creature such As, to seek through the regions of the earth For one his like, there would be something failing In him that should compare. I do not think, So fair an outward, and such stuff within Endows a man but he. 2 Gent.
You speak him far? 1 Gent. I do extend him, sir, within himself; Crush him together, rather than unfold His measure dulys. 2 Gent.
What's his name, and birth? 1 Gent. I cannot delve him to the root: His father Was call’d Sicilius, who did join his honour* ? i. e. you praise him extensively.
My eulogium, however extended it may seem, is short of his real excellence ; it is rather abbreviated than expanded.' Perhaps this passage will be best illustrated by the following lines in Troilus and Cressida, Act iii. Sc. 3 :
no man is the lord of any thing,
Where they are extended.' [i. e. displayed at length.] * I do not (says Steevens) understand what can be meant by
Against the Romans, with Cassibelan;
did join his banner.'
5 The father of Cymbeline.
6 • This encomium (says Johnson) is highly artful. To be at once in any great degree loved and praised is truly rare.'
? Feate is well-fashioned, proper, trim, handsome, well compact. Concinnus. Thus in Horman’s Vulgaria, 1519:-_He would see himself in a glasse, that all thinge were feet.' Feature was also used for fashion or proportion. The verb to feat was probably formed by Shakspeare himself.
8 • To bis mistress' means as to his mistress,