Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

Parolles, a parasite and hanger-on of Bertram's, the detection of whose false pretensions to bravery and honour forms a very amusing episode. He is first found out by the old lord Lafeu, who says, “ 'The soul of this man is in his clothes;" and it is proved afterwards that his heart is in his tongue, and that both are false and hollow. The adventure of " the bringing off of his drum" has become proverbial as a satire op all ridiculous and blustering undertakings, which the person never means to perform: nor can any thing be more severe than what one of the byestanders remarks upon what Parolles says of himself, “ Is it possible he should know what he is, and be that he is ?" Yet Parolles himself gives the best solution of the difficulty afterwards, when he is thankful to escape with his life and the loss of character; for, so that he can live on, he is by no means squeamish about the loss of pretensions, to which he had sense enough to know he had no real claim, and which he had assumed only as a means to live.

Parolles. Yet I am thankful : if my beart were great,
'Twould burst at this. Captain I'll be no more,
But I will eat and drink, and sleep as soft
As captain shall. Simply the thing I am
Shall make me live: who knows biinself a braggart,
Let him fear tiis; for it shall come to pass,
That every braggart shall be found an ass.
Rust sword, cool blushes, and Parolles live
Safest in shame ; being fool'd, by fooi'ry thrive ;
There's place and means for every man alive.
l'll after them.

The story of ALL's WELL THAT ENDS WELL, and of several others of Shakspeare's plays, is taken

from Boccacio. The poet has dramatised the original novel with great skill and comick spirit, and has preserved all the beauty of character and sentiment without improving upon it, which was impossible. There is indeed in Boccacio's serious pieces a truth, a pathos, and an exquisite refinement of sentiment, which is hardly to be met with in any other prose writer whatever. Justice has not been done him by the world. He has in general passed for a mere parrator of lascivious tales or idle jests. This character probably originated in his obnoxious attacks on the monks, and has been kept up by the grossness of mankind, who revenged their own want of refinement on Boccacio, and only saw in his writings what suited the coarseness of their own tastes. But the truth is, that he has carried sentiment of every kind to its very highest purity and perfection. By sentiment we would here understand the habitual workings of some one powerful feeling, where the heart reposes almost entirely upon itself, without the violent excitement of opposing duties or untoward circumstances. In this way, nothing ever came up to the story of Frederigo Alberigi and his Falcon. The perseverance in attachment, the spirit of gallantry and generosity displayed in it, has no parallel in the history of heroical sacrifices. The feeling is so unconscious too, and involuntary, is brought out in such small, unlooked-for, and unostentatious circumstances, as to show it to have been woven into the very nature and soul of the author. The story of Isabella is scarcely less fine, and is more affecting in the circumstances and in the catastrophe. Dryden has done justice to the impassioned eloquence of the

Tancred and Sigismunda; but has not given an adequate idea of the wild preternatural interest of the story of Honoria. Cimon and Iphigene is by no means one of the best, notwithstanding the popularity of the subject. The proof of unalterable affection given in the story of Jeronymo, and the simple touches of nature and picturesque beauty in the story of the two holiday lovers, who were poisoned by tasting a leaf in the garden at Florence, are perfect masterpieces. The epithet of Divine was well bestowed on this great painter of the human heart. The invention implied in his different tales is immense : but we are not to infer that it is all his own. He probably availed himself of all the common traditions which were floating in his time, and which he was the first to appropriate. Homer appears the most original of all authors-probably for no other reason than that we can trace the plagiarism no far. ther. Boccacio has furnished subjects to numberless writers since his time, both dramatick and parrative. The story of Griselda is borrowed from his Decameron by Chaucer; as is the Knight's Tale (Palamon and Arcite) from his poem of the Theseid.

[ocr errors][merged small]

If we were to part with any of the author's come. dies, it should be this. Yet we should be loth to part with Don Adriano de Armado, that mighty potentate of nonsense, or his page, that handful of wit; with Nathaniel the curate, or Holofernes the schoolmaster, and their dispute after dinner on “ the golden cadences of poesy;" with Costard the clown, or Dull the constable. Biron is too accomplished a character to be lost to the world, and yet he could not appear without his fellow courtiers and the king : and if we were to leave out the ladies, the gentlemen would have no mistresses. So that we believe we may let the whole play stand as it is, and we shall hardly venture to “ set a mark of reprobation on it.” Still we have some objections to the style, which we think savours more of the pedantick spirit of Shakspeare's time than of his own genius ; more of controversial divinity, and the logick of Peter Lombard, than of the inspiration of the Muse. It transports us quite as much to the manners of the.court, and the quirks of courts of law, as to the scenes of nature, or

or the fairy land of his own imagination. Shakspeare has set himself to imitate the tone of polite conversation then prevailing among the fair, the witty, and the learned, and he has imitated it but too faithfully. It is as if the hand of Titian bad been employed to give grace to the curls of a full bottomed periwig, or Raphael had attempted to give expression to the tapestry figures in the House of Lords. Shakspeare has put an excellent description of this fashionable jargon into the mouth of the critical Holofernes " as too picked, too spruce, too affected, too odd, as it were, too peregrinate, as I may call it ;" and nothing can be more marked than the difference when he breaks loose from the trammels he had imposed on himself, “as light as bird from brake," and speaks in his own person. We think, for instance, that in the following soliloquy the poet has fairly got the start of Queen Elizabeth and her maids of honour :

Biron. O! and I, forsooth, in love,
I that have been love's whip;
A very beadle to an amorous sigh :
A critick; nay, a night-watch constable,
A domineering pedant o'er the boy,
Than whom po mortal more magnificent.
This whimpled, whining, purblind, wayward boy,
This signior Junio, giant dwarf, Don Cupid,
Regent of love rhines, lord of folded arms,
Th’ anointed sovereign of sighs and groans :
Liege of all loiterers and malecontents,
Dread prince of plackets, king of codpieces,
Sole imperator, and great general
Of trotting parators (O my little heart !)
And I to be a corporal of his field,
And wear his colours like a tumbler's hoop!
What? I love! I sue! I seek a wife!
A woman, that is like a German clock,

« ÎnapoiContinuați »