Imagini ale paginilor

follow the Poet's guidance, along the course of his swift mountain-stream foaming along over many a rock, or winding through dell and forest, or cultured field, and at every turn opening to us some new and surprising beauty. If I may borrow an image from the poetic scenery of our own land, I would say, that though Othello, MACBETH, and Lear produce on our minds an effect like that of the terrible beauty and overwhelming power of Niagara, yet his must be a wayward and capricious taste which these noblest works of Nature and of Genius could render insensible to the long and varied succession of romantic and picturesque beauties that open unexpectedly upon us as we thread the devious plot of Cymbeline or the rocky and time-worn glens of the Trenton Falls.

The only original edition, that in the first folio, is printed with much care, and is accurately divided into acts and scenes, which is not the case with some other of the plays. Yet, as it was printed from manuscript, long after the author's day, and very probably from a manuscript copy of a copy for theatrical use, there are several unintelligible readings, which are certainly either errors of the press, or of the copyist; and there are others again, involving difficulties of construction or of sense, affording opportunity for critical sagacity and discussion in their removal or elucidation. But, on the whole, there is no great room for discrepancy in the text in different editions, and there is less than the usual amount of verbal controversy among commentators.



[ocr errors]

Shakespeare found in Hollingshed the name and reign of Cymbeline as an ancient English king, the names of his sons, and the demand of tribute from him by the Roman emperor; but, beyond this, neither Hollingshed nor any of the other chroniclers afforded him any historical materials. The carrying off the two young princes by Belarius, their education by him, and their restoration to their father, as well as the Roman invasion, the battle, &c., are all of the Poet's own invention. The incidents of that part of the plot relating to Imogen are drawn from an ancient popular tale, which, like many others, afforded amusement to our ancestors of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, in various shapes, forms, and languages. Mr. Collier, in his “ Introduction" to CYMBELINE, thus sums up briefly the account of the several French, Italian, and English versions of the story, which may also be found more in full in the last number of his “Shakespeare's Library:"

They had been employed for a dramatic purpose in France at an early date, in a miracle-play, printed in 1639, by Messrs. Monmerqué & Michel, in their Théatre François au Moyen-age, from a manuscript in the Bibliothèque du Roi. In that piece, mixed up with many romantic circumstances, we find the wager on the chastity of the heroine, her flight in the disguise of a page, the proof of her innocence, and her final restoration to her husband. There also we meet with two circumstances introduced into CYMBELINE, but not contained in any other version of the story with which we are acquainted : we allude to the boast of Berengier (the Iachimo of the French drama) that if he were allowed the opportunity of speaking to the heroine but twice, he should be able to accomplish his design: Iachimo makes the same declaration. Again, in the French miracle-play, Berengier takes exactly Shakespeare's mode of assailing the virtue of Imogen, by exciting her anger and jealousy by pretending that her husband, in Rome, had set her the example of infidelity. Incidents somewhat similar are narrated in the French romances of · La Violette,' and · Flore et Jehanne;' in the latter, the villain, being secretly admitted by an old woman into the bedroom of the heroine, has the means of ascertaining a particular mark upon her person while she is bathing.

" The novel by Boccaccio has many corresponding features: it is the ninth of Giornata II., and bears the following title :- Bernabo da Genova, da Ambrogiulo ingannato, perde il suo, e comanda che la moglie innocente sia nccisa. Ella scampa, et in habito di huomo serve il Soldano; ritrova l'ingannatore, e Bernabo conduce in Alessandria, dove l'ingannatore punilo, ripreso habito feminile col marito ricehi si tornano a Genova. This tale includes one circumstance only found there and in Shakespeare's play: we allude to the mole which Iachimo saw on the breast of Imogen. The parties are all merchants in Boccaccio, excepting towards the close of his novel, where the Soldan is introduced: the villain, instead of being forgiven, is punished by being anointed with honey, and exposed in the sun to flies, wasps, and mosquitoes, which eat the flesh from his bones.

“ A modification of this production seems to have found its way into our language at the commencement of the seventeenth century. Stevens states that it was printed in 1603, and again in 1620, in a tract called • Westward for Smelts.' If there be no error as to the date, the edition of 1603 has been lost, for no copy of that year now seems to exist in any public or private collection. Mr. Halliwell, in his reprint of · The First Sketch of the Merry Wives of Windsor,' has expressed his opinion that Stevens must have been mistaken, and that Westward for Smelts' was not published until 1620: only one copy even of this impression is known; and if, in fact, it were not, as Stevens supposes, a reprint, of course Shakespeare could not have resorted to it: however, he might, without much difficulty, have gone to the original; or some version may then have been in existence, of which he availed himself, but which has not come down to our day."-COLLIER.

Halliwell and Knight are clearly right in the opinion that the English version of this story was not printed until long after CYMBELINE had been written, and that Shakespeare's obligation to it is one of Stevens's random assertions. Boccaccio's tale, as they and Malone observe, appears to have furnished the general scheme of this part of the drama, and Shakespeare has taken from it, or from the French, at least one circumstance not found in the English version. To any one who has as much elementary knowledge of Latin as Shakespeare certainly had, the acquiring of so much Italian as to make out the plot of a prose story is so easy, and in his day must have been so useful to a prolific dramatic author when Italian was the only vehicle of the lighter literature of Europe, that there would be the highest probability of his reading Boccaccio in the original, even if there were not various other more positive indications of his acquaintance with the language to be traced in his works.

Yet it is worthy remark that in one striking particular,—the description of the mole on Imogen's breast,—the play corresponds not so much with the Italian tale as with the more poetical description in one of the old French


[ocr errors]

romances, De la Violette," (republished in Paris, 1834,) in which the young and handsome Gerard de Nevers, the “ false Paridel" of French romance, is the Iachimo of the plot. He, like “the yellow Iachimo," obtains by a stealthy glance the knowledge of a private mark

Et vit sur sa destre mamele

Une violete novele

Ynde parut sous la char blanche ;resembling the English Poet's—

- On ber left breast
A mole cinque-spotted, like the crimson drops
l'the bottom of a cowslip.

This looks like direct imitation, or rather adaptation ; yet the French romance has otherwise small resemblance to the story of Imogen, and, as it was written in the thirteenth century, was not at all likely to have been known to Shakespeare. The coincidence is remarkable.

Nevertheless, from whatever source the idea of the plot might have been immediately drawn, the Poet owes to his predecessors nothing more than the bare outline of two or three leading incidents. These he has raised, refined, and elevated into a higher sphere; while the characters, dialogue, circumstances, details, descriptions, – the lively interest of the plot, its artful involution and skilful development,—are entirely his own. He has given to what were originally scenes of coarse and tavern-like profligacy, a dignity suited to the state and character of his personages, and has poured over the whole, the golden light, the rainbow hues of imaginative poetry.


[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

COSTUME, MANNERS, AND SCENERY. The costume of CYMBELINE has, in one sense, reference to the author only; that is, so far it relates to the manners, descriptions of artificial objects, names, and all the incidents of social habits interwoven with the plot or dialogue. In the other and more restricted sense of the term, it relates only to the external embellishments of dress and scenery, to be studied by actors and artists, and by no means without their use in aiding the imagination of the closet-reader, and enabling him to paint far more vividly and gracefully to “ his mind's eye” the fleeting creations of the Poet's fancy.

On the first point, the author's own alleged anachronisms of costume, in its broader sense, several editors and critics have been most stern and authoritative in unmitigated censure. Johnson, after denouncing " the folly of the fiction and the absurdity of the conduct,” (in which opinion few will be found to agree with him,) proceeds to reprimand “the confusion of names and manners of different periods." Malone grieves that “Shakespeare has peopled Rome with modern Italians, Philario and Iachimo, &c.;" while Douce is equally offended at the " three thousand pounds” of tribute, and other similar un-Roman anachronisms.

These learned censurers are not a little too confident and authoritative, even considered on the plain ground of antiquarian accuracy. The notion of the last century that the ancient Gauls, Britons, and Germans of the age of the Cæsars, the barbarians of old Rome, were mere savages, resembling our less civilized Indians, has been rejected by more modern inquirers, who have assigned to them a knowledge of the useful arts of life and habits of domestic comfort at least equal to those of the mass of the Roman people. Niebuhr, in his last lectures, does not hesitate to pronounce the ancient Germans of the time of Tiberius to have been wanting only in the arts and elegances of city life, but that otherwise they were a pastoral and agricultural people, whose houses and modes of life did not differ very much from those of the rural population of parts of Germany at the present day. The Britons of the south of England, over whom Cymbeline reigned, are known to have been from the continent, (Belgians,) and had the same manners with the Gauls, whose chiefs and princes were often men of great wealth and cultivation.

Again, Iachimo and Philario, though not classical Roman names, might well be those of distinguished Italians resident at Rome, of Etruscan or Greek descent, and as well entitled to a place in the city directory of old Rome as Pollio, or Lucumo, or even Piso.

Douce is particularly unlucky in his criticism. The “three thousand pounds” of tribute that displease him as “ a modern computation,” happen to be strictly classical, and the very computation which an old Roman would have used when he spoke of foreign moneys. Thus, Cicero says Decem millia pondo auri,”—“ten thousand pounds of gold;" and Livy uses pondo in the same way. It would not be difficult, on this ground alone, to rebuke the hasty arrogance of criticism, and vindicate the Poet. But, in fact, this is not the true ground of his defence, for it would pre-suppose in him a minute knowledge of antiquity above the level of scholarship in his own age.

Still, it is equally absurd to charge the author of CORIOLANUS and Julius Cæsar with gross ignorance of the common-place matters of Roman history, names, and manners. He was at least too familiar with North’s “ Plutarch" to authorize such a charge. The fact seems to be that the Italianized names of Iachimo and Philario are simply popular modern adaptations of Latin appellatives, such as were universal in France and England at the revival of letters; as, for instance, Livy, Horace, Mark Antony,-Quinte-Curce, Pline, Pompee, Jules César, &c. Horace, Pliny, Antony and others have, from frequent use, become incorporated into modern usage, and may be employed without offence as Roman names in English history or the drama, as Pompee, Jules César and others are by the French poets. Philario and Iachimo, for Philarius and Iachimus, are read only in SHAKESPEARE ; and his critics, therefore, charge him with peopling old Rome with modern Italians.

On some of the other minor points of costume, Shakespeare may have erred here and there, (as, for instance, the clock,) but more from carelessness and indifference to such details than from positive ignorance. But, in the main, all these details of his drama seem framed with deliberate choice, to suit a dim period of legendary story which he had selected as most appropriate to the character and style of his poem, and affording the widest field for his imagination. For this reason he might well choose a period where there was nothing certain or familiar to bind him down to any conventional system of life or manners; where something of primitive simplicity might easily be blended with chivalric grace or Roman dignity; where the vernal freshness of early pastoral and forest life might be contrasted with something of the refinement and elegance of the court of a powerful prince, who, whatever were the habits of his people, had himself been familiar with the splendour of imperial Rome.

Shakespeare accordingly takes much the same liberty with the reign of Cymbeline that Ariosto has done with Charlemagne and his contemporaries, who were much more near in time and more definitely marked in real history. The alleged offences of both poets against historical accuracy, whatever they may be, are to be tried only upon legendary or poetic evidence, and therefore according to other rules of critical decision than those of Johnson or Malone.

Thus much for what may be termed the poetic and literary costume of CYMBELINE. For the material and artistic portion of this inquiry we must rely upon the Pictorial edition :

" For the dress of our ancient British ancestors of the time of Cymbeline, or Cunobelin, we have no pictorial anthority, and the notices of ancient British costume which we find scattered among the classical historians are exceedingly scanty and indefinite. That the chiefs and the superior classes among them, however, were clothed completely and with barbaric splendour, there exists at present little doubt; and the naked savages, with painted skins, whose imaginary effigies adorned the ‘Pictorial Histories' of our childhood, are now considered to convey a



better idea of the more remote and barbarous tribes of the Maxatæ than of the inhabitants of Cantium or Kent, (“the most civilized of all the Britons' as early as the time of Cæsar,) and even to represent those only when, in accordance with a Celtic custom, they had thrown off their garments of skin or dyed cloths to rush upon an invading enemy.

“That the Britons stained themselves with woad, which gave a blueish cast to the skin, and made them look dreadful in battle, is distinctly stated by Cæsar: but he also assures us expressly that the inhabitants of the southern coasts differed but little in their manners from the Gauls; an assertion which is confirmed by the testimony of Strabo, Tacitus, and Pomponius Mela; the latter of whom says, “the Britons fought armed after the Gaulish manner.'

“ The following description therefore of the Gauls, by Diodorus Siculus, becomes an authority for the arms and dress of the Britons, particularly as in many parts it corresponds with such evidence as exists in other contemporaneous writers respecting the dress of the Britons themselves :

“ • The Gauls wear bracelets about their wrists and arms, and massy chains of pure and beaten gold about their necks, and weighty rings upon their fingers, and corslets of gold upon their breasts. For stature they are tall, of a pale complexion, and red-haired, not only naturally, but they endeavour all they can to make it redder by art. They often wash their hair in a water boiled with lime, and turn it backwards from the forehead to the crown of the head, and thence to their very necks, that their faces may be fully seen.

. Some of them shave their beards, others let them grow a little. Persons of quality shave their chins close, but their moustaches they let fall so low that they even cover their mouths.

Their garments are very strange, for they wear party-coloured tunics (flowered with various colours in divisions) and hose which they call Bracæ.* They likewise wear chequered sagas (cloaks.) Those they wear in winter are thick, those in summer more slender. Upon their heads they wear helmets of brass with large appendages, made for ostentation's sake, to be admired by the beholders

.... They have trumpets after the barbarian manner, which in sounding make a horrid noise.

For swords they use a broad weapon called Spatha, which they hang across their right thigh by iron or brazen chains. Some gird themselves with belts of gold or silver.'

“In elucidation of the particular expression made use of by Diodorus in describing the variegated tissues of the Gauls, and which has been translated flowered wtth various colours in divisions,' we have the account of Pliny, who, after telling us that both the Gauls and Britons excelled in the art of making and dyeing cloth, and enumerating several herbs used for dyeing purple, scarlet, and other colours, says that they spin their fine wool, so dyed, into yarn, which was woven chequerwise so as to form small squares, some of one colour and some of another. Sometimes it was woven in stripes instead of chequers; and we cannot hesitate in believing that the tartan of the Highlanders, (to this day called the garb of old Gaul,') and the chequered petticoats and aprons of the modern Welsh peasantry, are the lineal descendants of this ancient and picturesque manufacture. With respect to their ornaments of gold, we may add, in addition to the classical authorities, the testimony of the Welsh bards. In the Welsh Triads, Cadwaladyr, son of Cadwallon ab Cadwan, the last who bore the title of King of Britain, is styled one of the three princes who wore the golden bands, being emblems of supreme authority, and which, according to Turner, were worn round the neck, arms, and knees.

“ The Druids were divided into three classes. The sacerdotal order wore white; the bards blue; and the third order, the Ovates or Obydds, who professed letters, medicine, and astronomy, wore green.

“ Dion Cassius describes the dress of a British queen in the person of the famous Bonduca or Boadicea. He tells us that she wore a torque of gold, a tunic of several colours all in folds, and over it a robe of coarse stuff. Her light hair fell down her shoulders far below the waist.

“The people of Britain,' says Strabo, “are generally ignorant of the art of cultivating gardens.' By the garden behind Cymbeline's palace' we should perhaps, therefore, in the spirit of minute antiquarianism, understand • grove.' But it is by no means clear that the Romans had not introduced their arts to an extent that might have made Cymbeline's palace bear some of the characteristics of a Roman villa. A highly civilized people very quickly impart the external forms of their civilization to those whom they have colonized. We do not therefore object, even in a prosaic view of the matter, that the garden, as the artist has represented it, has more of ornament than belongs to the Druidical grove. The houses of the inhabitants in general might retain in a great degree their primitive rudeness. When Julius Cæsar invaded Britain, the people of the southern coasts had already learned to build houses a little more substantial and convenient than those of the inland inhabitants. The country,' he remarks, ' abounds in houses, which very much resemble those of Gaul.' Now those of Gaul are thus described by Strabo:— They build their houses of wood, in the form of a circle, with lofty tapering roofs,' Lib. v. The foundations of some of the most substantial of these circular houses were of stone, of which there are still some remains in Cornwall, Anglesey, and other places. Strabo says “The forests of the Britons are their cities ; for, when they have inclosed a very large circuit with felled trees, they build within it houses for themselves and hovels for their cattle,' Lib. iv. But Cymbeline was one of the most wealthy and powerful of the ancient British kings. His capital was Camulodunum, supposed to be Maldon or Colchester. It was the first Roman colony in this island, and a place of great magnificence. We have not therefore to assume that ornament would be misplaced in it. Though the walls of Imogen's chamber, still subjecting the poetical to the exact, might by some



[ocr errors]

* “Martial has a line,— Like the old brachse of a needy Briton.'—Epig. ix. 21. They appear on the legs of the Gaulish figures in many Roman sculptures to have been a sort of loose pantaloon, terininating at the ankle, where they were met by a high shoe or brogue. There can be little doubt that the Highland truis is a modification of this ancient trouser, if not the identical thing itself.”


be considered as proper to be of rude stone or wood, it may very fairly be supposed that it was decorated with the rich hangings and the other tasteful appendages described by Iachimo;* the presents of the Roman emperors with whom Cymbeline and his ancestors had been in amity, or procured from the Greek and Phænician merchants who were constantly in commercial intercourse with Britain. (See, for fuller information on this subject, “The Costume of the Original Inhabitants of the British Isles,' by S. R. Meyrick, and Chas. Hamilton Smith ; fol. Lond. 1821.) But, after all, a play such as Cymbeline is not to be viewed through the medium only of the literal and the probable. In its poetical aspect it essentially disregards the few facts respecting the condition of the Britons delivered down by the classic historians. Shakespeare, in this, followed the practice of every writer of the romantic school. The costume (including scenery) had better want conformity with Strabo than be out of harmony with Shakespeare."

* “The ‘andirons' and chimney-piece' belong to the age of Elizabeth. But Shakespeare, when he commits what we call anachronisms, uses what is familiar to render intelligible what would otherwise be obscure and remote.”

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[graphic][merged small]
« ÎnapoiContinuați »