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to occasional events, and especially of some verses which speak of the discovery of some islands, of war and pestilence, which Malone interprets of the pestilence of 1593, of the threatened second invasion by Spain, and Sir Edward Raleigh's voyage of discovery in 1595. But we have already seen in the case of “Twelfth Night” how little regard is due to such allusions, of which it is always difficult to determine the precise original.

In parts, no doubt, the “ Two Gentlemen of Veronais sparkling with beauties, but as a whole it betrays a certain youthful awkwardness, and in execution a want of sustained power and depth. The composition is distinguished by the easy and harmonious flow of its language, by a peculiar freshness of view, by the naïveté of the particular thoughts, an unrestrained burst of wit and humour (e.g. in Speed and Launce), and by the delineation of the dramatic characters, which although but sketchily executed, is nevertheless striking, and invariably truthful. On the other hand, both the general view and the particular thought are deficient in depth ; the parts do not readily round themselves off and combine into a whole ; much is merely indicated which ought to have been more fully developed, and the conclusion especially is brought about too rapidly and without due preparation. Still it is ever Shakspeare, even though we here meet him at the outset of his career. Even at this early date he has shown rare judgment in the management of the comic materials-chance, humour, error, and intrigue, with human folly and perversity; the element of intrigue is predominant, but yet ably supported by the fantastic one of objective and subjective contingency. Love is regarded as the foundation and ruling spring of life; and it is manifestly the design of the piece to exhibit the instability and rottenness of this basis, and, as it appears within the comic view of things, in its infinite disporportion to the true idea of life. Accordingly, love is presented under the most diversified forms, but is in all equally weak, foolish, perverse, and self-indulgent. The centre of interest is in the love of Proteus for Julia ; his twofold faithlessness, and his rapid repentance. A look from Silvia is enough to make him forget his affection for one for whom but a moment before he was passionately sighing, and for whose absence the tear-drops were still hanging on his eyelashes.

For her love, he is content to be false to the dear friend of his youth, and to betray the confidence of the Duke her father, and of Thurio, whose suit he pretends to favour. Proteus is the impersonation of fickle inconstant love. In contrast with him, Julia appears at first in the fitful humour of a coy maiden; she refuses to receive the letter of her lover, and yet chides her maid for not forcing her to read it; unopened she tears it in pieces before her, in order to gather the fragments afterwards, and read the contents in secret. Soon, however, this coyness is all forgotten, and she passes into the other extreme; disregarding all maidenly fears and decorum, she dresses herself in man's attire, and runs after her faithless lover to bear his messages to Silvia, and to throw herself, after the endurance of much contnmely and mortification, into his arms. The other pair of lovers, Valentine and Silvia, are more constant; spite of all obstacles, troubles, and sufferings, they are faithful to each other. And, yet, Valentine is ready to resign the hand of his beloved, for whom he had done and suffered so much, and whom he was ready to carry off from her father, in favour of his treacherous and only half-repentant friend; although Silvia's aversion to Proteus would have prevented him from reaping any benefit from the sacrifice. Thurio, lastly, is a lover of

a very ordinary character. He is a wealthy blockhead, who knows his own mind as little as he understands his more talented rival; he continues to woo, although his suit has been rejected with contumely and scorn, and then withdraws it, because it has been so treated. This fickle, inconstant, and inconsistent love and friendship, is worthily associated with the old Duke's parental fondness for his daughter, which also is in the highest degree blind and capricious. After purposing to force his daughter's inclination in favour of a captious old noodle, he at last consents to her union with a captain of outlaws, whose suit as an honourable knight he had rejected. The perversity, however, and inconsistency of love, reaches its consummation in the inimitable Launce, one of those delightfully amusing characters which we meet nowhere else but in Shakspeare. He who for wailing and grief can scarcely leave his father's roof, whose tears might fill the dry river, and whose sighs might drive the boat that is to bear him from his home; who to save his

sowerest natured, cruel-hearted cur, allows himself to be cudgelled, set in the stocks, and placed in the pillory,”—he who has so tender a heart for his dog, rejoiced nevertheless in the correction of his friend Speed, for a fault into which he himself had led him. He is in fact an inexhaustible fund of inconsistencyof foolish sentimentality, and sentimental folly.

Thus, then, is love—that primary and fundamental motive of life and history, here depicted under different aspects in all its weakness and frailty, finiteness and nothingness. Chance, and the changing and fickle humours of the lovers, bring on the complication which is again untied by chance, fickleness, and necessity: all ultimately returns into the right track, and leads to a happy result. A true picture of human life in general !

All's Well that Ends Well," as already remarked, is also one of Shakspeare's earlier works. In richness of thought, in pregnant well-executed characters and regularity of structure, it is far superior to the “ Two Gentlemen of Verona.” On the other hand, the language has a certain stiffness; occasionally the images and similes seem far-fetched, and the wit and banter does not flow freely and smoothly. The composition, too, is less successful than in most others of Shakspeare's comedies. Several of the characters, the Countess of Rousillon, for instance, the Duke of Florence, Lefeu, Parolles, Violenta, and Mariana, although they may enter outwardly in the management of the action, have no intrinsic connection with the ground-idea of the whole. Perhaps the cause of these defects is the very subject-matter of the piece, which is anything but happily chosen, since the natural sense of propriety is offended when woman becomes the wooer. The high-minded and excellent Helena, whom virtue and true nobility of soul raise far above the lowliness of her birth, allows herself to indulge the fond belief that her affectionate devotion and services may win the love of the high-born, powerful, and wealthy Count of Rousillon. Fortune favours her ; she wins the favour of his sovereign lord, the King, by curing him of a dangerous disease, who, in compliance with her wish, commands the Earl to marry her. She quickly learns, however, the bitter truth, that marriage without affection cannot rivet even an external union, much less an internal one; that love, with its divine and inherent liberty, mocks the rights and duties even of virtue and merit, whenever its own indefeasible privileges are violated. What she in vain claims as due to her virtues, she at last gains by a happy deception, which enables her to fulfil the apparently impossible condition to which the Count had tied the bestowal of his love.

In “All's Well,” therefore, we have love again as the centre around which, within range of the comic view of things, the development of human affairs is made to revolve. It is not, however, conceived in so general and independent a light as in the “Two Gentlemen of Verona.” The fundamental idea is drawn rather from its principal and, in short, its characteristic feature—freedom. One party chooses what circumstances deny, and the other rejects the best and fairest, merely because they are forced upon it. But it is this very liberty that proves its weakness whenever it clings to earth alone, and strays on one hand into undue pretension and error, and on the other into arbitrary wilfulness and blind pride. Helena pays the penalty of the intolerance and presumption which led her to deprive the object of her admiration of his right of free choice, which, in her own case, she exercised with so little restraint; notwithstanding her acquired rights, she must have recourse to a degrading artifice to gain possession of her own. The Count as wilfully refuses what nevertheless he had secretly longed for and desired ;* his freedom degenerates into caprice, because it is proud and arrogant, and is offended at being obliged to receive the very thing which it had hoped to be able freely to win. Once the victim of caprice, he soon loses for ever his natural nobleness of heart, and sinks into the premeditating deceiver and seducer, until at last he is himself deceived, and by a cheat restored to his better self. His unsuccessful wooing of Diana is a proof that love is as little to be restrained by promises and presents, as by merit and virtuous deeds. This singular concatenation of delusion, contradiction, and aberration in the human heart—this intrinsic and immediate union of love with faults and weaknesses, the most directly opposed to itself-the quick change of maidenly reserve into open wooing and compulsion, and conversely the transition of original inclination into morbid pride and contemptuous aversion; and, lastly, the equally sudden return of love upon mere idle and

* Act. V. Sc. 3.

external reasons—all these, resulting indeed from the most essential and divine attribute of love-its intrinsic freedom-exhibits it, whenever it looks not beyond earthly motives, as utterly losing itself amid the universal and all-embracing contingency of its temporal and finite existence. Contradiction, entanglement, and delusion, finally dissolve each other; and the true and just attain the preeminence. The effect is heightened, on the one hand, by the singular humour of the King, to make the Count's heart and hand the reward of his own love and gratitude to Helena; and on the other, Parolles, that little pendant to the great Falstaff, aptly displays the utter nakedness of pompous vanity and empty pride. Lastly, the marriage-mad Clown, puffed up with his visit to the court, declares that "he has no mind to Isbel, since he was at court. Our old ling and our Isbels o' the country are nothing like your old ling and your Isbels o'the court : the brains of his Cupid are knocked out, and he begins to love, as an old man loves money, with no stomach.”



In “Much Ado About Nothing," as in most other comedies, a love-story forms the centre of interest, around which the whole plot revolves. And yet love itself is not the object, whose comic paralysis, by the dialectic of irony, the poet here proposes to exhibit. He rather seems to have drawn his ground-idea from a contemplation of the contrasts which human life presents between the reality of outward objects, and the perceptions of the inward subject -between that which the world really is, and that which it appears to those who yet live in it, and have experience of it. Love, as the ordinary occasion of mischances and complications, which, although in themselves insignificant and not uncommon, appear in a very different light to those immediately concerned in them, is merely the medium which the poet employs for projecting these contrasts on a luminous field. We are throughout sensible of their presence in the chief moments of the action. The most ordinary and insignificant matters and circumstances are arrayed in all the pomp of form, and by the personages of the drama, stuffed out with the


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