Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

Pardon this fault, and by my soul I swear
I never more will break an oath with thee.

Ant. I once did lend my body for his wealth ;
Which, but for him that had your husband's ring,
Had quite miscarried : I dare be bound again,
My soul upon the forfeit, that your lord
Will never more break faith advisedly.

Por. Then you shall be his surety: Give him this ;
And bid him keep it better than the other.

Ant. Here, Lord Bassanio; swear to keep this ring.
Bass. By Heaven, it is the same I

gave

the Doctor! Por. I had it of him; pardon me, Bassanio. Ner. And pardon me, my gentle Gratiano.

Gra. Why, this is like the mending of highways
In Summer, when the ways are fair enough. clinenud ninnat
Por.

You are all amaz'd:
Here is a letter, read it at your leisure ;
It comes from Padua, from Bellario:
There you shall find that Portia was the Doctor;
Nerissa there her clerk. Lorenzo here
Shall witness I set forth as soon as you,
And even but now return’d; I have not yet
Enter'd my house. Antonio, you are welcome;
And I have better news in store for you
Than you expect: unseal this letter soon;

There you shall find three of your argosies
Are richly come to harbour suddenly.
You shall not know by what strange accident
I chanced on this letter.
Ant.

I am dumb.
Bass. Were you the Doctor, and I knew you not?

Ant. Sweet lady, you have given me life and living ;
For here I read for certain that my ships
Are safely come to road.23

22 That is, for his good. Wealth is only another form of weal: we say indifferently common-wenl or common-wealth ; and the commonwealth is the good that men have in common.

23 The Poet leaves us somewhat in the dark as to how the reports of shipwreck grew into being and gained belief. I have noted one seeming indication before, that the Jew exercised his cunning as well as malice in plotting and preparing them. See page 123, note 2. Shylock appears, at all events, to have known that such reports were coming, before they came. Yet I suppose the natural impression from the play is, that he lent the ducats and took the bond on a nere chance of coming at his wish. But he would hardly grasp so sharply at a bare possibility of revenge, without using means for turning it into something more. This would mark him with much darker lines of guilt. Why then did not Shakespeare bring the matter forward mure prominently? Perhaps it was because the doing so would have made Shylock appear too steep a criminal for the degree of interest which his part was meant to carry in the play. In other words, the health of the drama as

Por.

How
now,

Lorenzo!
My clerk hath some good comforts too for you.

Ner. Ay, and I'll give them him without a fee.
There do I give to you and Jessica,
From the rich Jew, a special deed of gift,
After his death, of all he dies possess'd of.

Lor. Fair ladies, you drop manna in the way
Of starved people.
Por.

It is almost morning,
And yet I'm sure you are not satisfied
Of these events at full. Let us go in;
And charge us there upon inter'gatories,
And we will answer all things faithfully.

Gra. Well, while I live, I'll fear no other thing
So sore as keeping safe Nerissa's ring.

[Eceunte

a work of comic art required his criminality in this point to be kept in the background. He comes very near overshadowing the other characters too much, as it is. And Shylock's character is essentially tragic: there is none of the proper timber of comedy in him.

T

HIS play was never printed, so far as is known, till in the folio of very good for that time: the errors have proved, for the most part, easy of correction; so that the text offers little matter of difficulty or disagreement among editors. No contemporary notice of the play was discovered till the year 1828, when Mr Collier, delving among the old papers in the Museum, lighted upon a manuscript Diary, written by one John Manningham, a barrister at law, who was entered at the Middle Temple in 1597. It seems that the benchers and members of the several law-schools in London, which were then called “ Inns of Court,” were wont to have annual feasts, and to enrich their convivialities with a course of wit and poetry. So, under date of February 20, 1602, Manningham notes: "At our feast we had a play called Twelfth Night, or What You Will ;and he then goes on to state such particulars of the action as fully identify the play he saw with the one now in hand. Which ascertains that Shakespeare's Twelfth Night was performed before the members of the Middle Temple Inn on the old Church festival of the Purification, formerly called Candlemas an important link in the course of festivities that used to continue from Christmas to Shrovetide. The play was most likely fresh from the Poet's hand when the lawyers thus had the pleasure of it; at least, the internal marks of allusion and style accord well with that supposal. In Act iii. scene 2, it is said of Malvolio, -" He does smile his face into more lines than are in the new map, with the augmentation of the Indies.” This is justly explained as referring to a famous multilineal map of the world, which appeared in 1598; the first map of the world in which the Eastern Islands were included. Again, in Act iii. scene 1, we have, -" But, indeed, words are very rascals since bonds disgraced them ;” alluding, apparently, to an order issued by the Privy Council in June, 1600, laying very tight restrictions upon the stage, and providing very severe penalties for any breach thereof.

The story upon which the more serious parts of Twelfth Night were founded appears to have been a general favourite before and during Shakespeare's time. It is met with in various forms and under various names in the Italian, French, and English literature of that period. All those forms of the tale agree in having a brother and sister, the latter in male attire, and the two bearing so close a resemblance in person and dress as to be indistinguishable; upon which circumstance some of the leading incidents are made to turn. But there is an Italian comedy, lately brought to light, entitled Gl’Ingannati, which is said to have been first printed in 1537, and which differs from all other known forms of the tale in various particulars wherein Twelfth Night shows a close correspondence with it. In this play, a brother and sister, named Fabritio and Lelia, are separated at the sacking of Rome in 1527. Lelia is carried to Modena, where a gentleman resides named Flamineo, who was formerly a lover of hers. She disguises herself as a boy, and enters his service. Flamineo, having forgotten his Lelia, is making suit to Isabella, a lady of Modena. The disguised Lelia is employed by him in his love-suit to Isabella, who remains utterly deaf to his passion, but falls desperately in love with the messenger. After a while, the brother Fabritio ar. rives at Modena, and his close resemblance to Lelia in her male attire gives rise to some ludicrous mistakes. At one time a servant of Isabella meets him in the street, and takes him to her house, supposing

him to be the messenger; just as Sebastian is taken for Viola, and led to the house of Olivia. In due time the needful recognitions take place, whereupon Isabella easily transfers her affection to Fabritio, and Flamineo's heart no less easily ties up with the loving and faithful Lelia. In her disguise Lelia takes the name of Fabio; hence, most likely, the name of Fabian, who figures as one of Olivia's servants. The Italian play has also a character called Pasquella, to whom Maria corresponds; and another named Malevolti, of which Malvolio is a happy adaptation. All which fully establishes the con nection between the Italian play and the English. As no translation of the former has been heard of, here again we have some reason for believing that the Poet could read Italian. As for the more comic portions of Twelfth Night, – those in which Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and the Clown figure so delectably, — we have no reason to suppose that any part of them was borrowed.

Hallam does not set nearly so high an estimate on Twelfth Nighl as it has long been my happiness, or my infirmity, to entertain. To me it is a mighty charming performance, insomuch that I sometimes have almost enough to do to hold fast my preference of As You Like It. If the characters are generally less interesting in themselves than we meet with in some of the Poet's comedies, the detect is pretty well made up by the felicitous grouping of them. Their very diversities of temper and purpose are made to act as so many mutual affinities; and this, too, in a manner so spontaneous, that we see not how they could possibly act otherwise. For broad comic eflect, the cluster of which Sir Toby is the centre - all of them drawn in clear yet delicate colours - is inferior only to the unparalleled assemblage that makes rich the air of Eastcheap. Of Sir Toby himself, it is enough to say with our Mr Verplanck, that “he certainly comes out of the same associations where the Poet saw Falstaff hold his revels ; and that though “not Sir John, nor a fainter sketch of him, yet he has an odd sort of a family likeness to him.” Maria, the little structure packed so close with mental spicery, is a model of arch, roguish mischievousness, with wit to plan and art to execute whatever falls within the scope of such a character. And the array of comicalities, exhilarating as it is in itself, is rendered doubly so by the frequent changes and playings-in of poetry breathed from the sweetest spots of romance, and which "gives a very echo to the seat where love is thron’d.” For the other points, I must rest with quoting the remarks of Schlegel :

T'welfth Night unites the entertainment of an intrigue, contrived with great ingenuity, to a rich fund of comic characters and situations, and the beauteous colours of an ethereal poetry. The love of the music-enraptured Duke for Olivia is an imagination; Viola appears ut first to fall arbitrarily in love with the Duke, whom she serves as a page, although she atierwards touches the tenderest strings of feeling; the proud Olivia is captivated by the modest and insinuating inessenger, in whom she is far from suspecting a disguised rival, and, at last, by a second deception, takes the brother for the sister. To these, which I might call ideal follies, a contrast is formed by the naked absurdities to which the entertaining tricks of the ludicrous persons of the piece give rise, under the pretext also of love; - the silly and profligate Knight's awkward courtship of Olivia, and her declaration of love to Viola ; the imagination of the pedantic steward Malvolio, that his mistress is secretly in love with him, which carries him so far that he is at last shut up as a lunatic, and visited by the Clown in the dress of a priest. These scenes are admirably con. ceived, and as significant as they are laughable."

TWELFTH NIGHT;

OR WHAT YOU WILL.

PERSONS REPRESENTED.

DREINO, Duke of Illyria.

SIR ANDREW AGUKOHTEEK. BEBASTIAN, a young Gentleman, Brother MALVOLIO, Steward to Olivia.

to Viola. ANTONIO, a Sea Captain, Friend to Sebas- FESTE, A Clown, } Servants to Olivia.

tian.
A Sea Captain, Friend to Viola.

OLIVIA, a Countess.
VALENTINE, Gentlemen attending on VIOLA, in love with the Duke.
CURIO,
the Duke.

MARIA, Olivia's Woman.
Bir TOBY BELCH, Uncle of Olivia.

Lords, a Priest, Sailors, Officers, Musicians, and other Attendants.

SCENE, a City in Illyria ; and the Sea-coast near it.

ACT I. SCENE I. An Apartment in the Duke's Palace.
Enter the Duke, Curio, and Lords ; Musicians attending

Duke. If music be the food of love,' play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall ;
0, it came o'er my ear like the sweet south,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour ! — Enough ; no more:
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before. -
O, spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou !

1 So, in Antony and Cleopatra, ii. 5: “Music, moody food of us that trade in love."

2 The sense of dying, as here used, is technically expressed by diminwendo.

8 South is Pope's happy correction of sound, the original reading, which Is retained by some recent editors. Both Knight and White argue plausibly for the latter word; still, I cannot quite see how sound should breathe upon a bed of flowers, "stealing and giving odour:" it seems too much like "smelling music," which were something too comic for such a strain as this. In Sidney's Arcadia we read: "Her breath is more sweet than a gentle southwest wind, which comes creeping over flowery beds and shadowed waters in the extreme neat of Summer;" which fully justifies south in the text, notwithstanding that the Poet elsewhere speaks of "the foggy south,"'* the spongy south," and "the dew-dropping south.". In the same passage Sir Philip has "the flock of unspeakable virtues," which is so like " the flock of all atfections " as to infer some acquaintance between the hero and the Poet.

« PoprzedniaDalej »