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whom, as its poles, the wholeaction and interest revolve. The Queen, whose guilty machinations threaten with ruin Posthumus and Imogene, the King himself, and Pisanio, and all else that have any goodness or virtue, holds in her own hands the reigns of government, and would make her will both law and fate to all, sees all her plans suddenly wrecked, and falls at last the victim of the destructive energy of her own wickedness. Cloten, whom the Queen alone can rule, is by his own savage ferocity caught in his own snare, and his fate is but a modified reflection of the same truth that his mother's life and death set forth. Imogene and Posthumus, by their secret marriage without the consent of her father, have justly incurred whatever sufferings befal them; upon Imogene they fall without staining the mirror of her pure womanliness, and therefore produce at once their beneficial design. They deprive Posthumus of his self-possession, but the destiny which he has prepared for himself, the death which he is seeking, are thwarted and turned aside by the counterplay of others' intrigues, and are turned eventually into life and happiness. Even the artful intriguing Iachimo is improved and converted by the misery which he has brought upon himself and others. Bellarius too, who breathed and contemplated nothing but deadly revenge, has undesignedly rescued the Princes from the clutches of the Queen, and contrary to his original design, preserves and educates for the throne a noble youth in every way worthy of the dignity, and so brings a blessing on the closing years of his life. On the other hand, Pisanio, the faithful and honest servant of Posthumus, has no design or desire but what is good and honourable, and yet whatever he does leads only to trouble and suffering. 'Cymbeline, lastly, the husband, the father, and the king, whom the miseries of all the other parts more or less remotely affect, in whom the rays of the large circle converge again, around whom all revolves, forms as it were the quiescent centre of motion, which, however passive and latent, regulates the fortunes of all, and is ultimately influenced by them. The drama therefore justly derives its name from him.

The justice of this conception of the piece is at once confirmed by the fact that thus animated by a single ground idea, it easily rounds itself off into an organic whole. But then the question occurs, what are we to think of the appearance of the spirits and deities in the fourth scene of the fifth act. It must, I cannot help thinking, be regarded as a mistake on Shakspeare's part. No doubt we see clearly enough the end which the poet had in view by it; he wished by their introduction to signify that the true might of destiny, which arranges the tangled threads of the designs, actions, and sufferings of men, and whose unseen hand fastens or loosens the knots, is the divine justice and providence itself. So far the scene does but confirm our view of the whole. But by this visible manifestation of the divine, he has not only combined together the separate elements of Tragedy and Comedy, but he has also confused the two distinct views of life which form their respective foundations. This dualism admits, it is true, of an organic union of its two parts: a higher unity comprises both the tragic and the comic view. But this, as we shall presently see, is artistically practicable nowhere except in what is properly the historical drama, where, however, the two views are by no means confounded, and their poetic validity in consequence rendered doubtful, but truly reconciled by being raised to a higher position and fused together in organic unity, in such wise that the significance and justification of each being unimpaired, they both continue to be independent members of one body. But “Cymbeline" can hardly pass for an historical drama. Not only its entire structure, but all the parts, equally militate against such a view; the apparition of the deities is in an especial manner inconsistent with it. This admixture disturbs, in fact, not only the intrinsic unity of idea, but also the organic structure of the entire fabric. The very circumstance that the necessity of this scene is not at once apparentsince even without it every thing would have proceeded in the same way as at present-proves it to be a needless interruption. In every organised body a superfluous member does but impede and interfere with its free action. Another fault in the structure of

Cymbeline " is the absence of any such light and merry character, or laughable situations, as might serve to keep us in mind of the comic domain, on which, notwithstanding the omission, the whole piece unquestionably stands. By this want the poem acquires a dark look-darker even than any tragedy.

I cannot hesitate to concur in the view of Tieck, who supposes “ that the checkered and romantic story may have attracted the


youthful mind of Shakspeare, and inspired him to attempt to adapt it to the stage.” This first juvenile essay he may probably have revised towards the close of his poetic career-such a supposition is greatly favoured by the unevenness of the style—and he may have retained the ill-placed scene of the gods, either because it had formerly made a favourable impression on the public mind, or because, in the patch-work of revision, he either lost sight of organic unity, or was unable to reproduce the exact spirit and idea under whose influence he had originally composed the piece.

That this revision--or probably the entire piece-belongs to the last years of Shakspeare's poetical labours, admits not of doubt. Not merely the language and versification, but in an especial manner the gloomy aspect of the whole, and the deep seriousness which heavily weighs upon it, bespeak its later origin. Tieck thought it to be Shakspeare's last work, and assigned it to 1614-15. It has, however, been recently placed beyond doubt by the oft-cited document discovered by Collier—the manuscript of Dr. Forman—that it was acted somewhere between 20th April, 1610, and 15th May, 1611. (New Particulars, &c. p. 22.) Malone (Reed, ii. 333,) having discovered some circumstances which make it tolerably certain that “Macbeth” and “ Cymbeline” were produced nearly about the same time, placed the latter in 1605. In this view Drake and Chalmers both concur, the latter, however, assigning both pieces to the later date of 1610. For my part, as it appears to me pretty certain that “ Macbeth” was first produced on the stage in 1610, I shall place “ Cymbeline” somewhere between 1609-11. It was first printed in 1623*.

* The sources from which the materials of “Cymbeline" were drawn are as yet undiscovered. In the old English Chronicles of Geoffrey of Monmouth, and Holinshed, we find a legendary King Cymbeline, with his two sons Guiderius and Arviragus, but from this quarter Shakspeare has borrowed nothing more than the mere names, and the time in which the story is placed. If, however, we must suppose him to have borrowed from some quarter or other, a tale of Boccaccio, (Decam. ii. 9,) seems the most likely, although the deviations are so material as to come very near to a new invention altogether. (Cf. Simrock, &c. i. 179 f. iii. 205 f. Grimm. Altd. Wälder, i. 27 f.) I am unacquainted with the piece “ Westward for Smelts," from which Malone supposes a part of the fable to be taken.



I place these two dramas together, and exclude them from the ideal classification to which I have attempted to reduce all the rest of Shakspeare's Comedies, because of the widely distinct and divergent character which they seem to possess. They are, for instance, the only pieces in which Shakspeare is, properly speaking, satirical. The satirical element is no doubt contained in the comic view of life; nay more, comedy is no doubt satire also, but satire in a loose and general sense. It is an objectire satire that is perceptible in Comedy; that is, the comic element which lies in the weakness and perversity of man mocks itself, and the dialectic of irony draws out the absolute nullity of human life as a mass of contradiction and absurdity. For to ridicule is but to set forth an object in its infinite nothingness, unreality, and invalidity; and consequently its real worthlessness. But such objective satire is not satire in its stricter and proper signification. And this is only found where the ridicule forms part of the subjectire design of the poet, and not of the objective tendency of the poem. No doubt this subjective purpose cannot stand out prominently and nakedly in the drama, for this is a form of art which rigorously excludes the poet's personality from its limits. Even in the parabasis of the Aristophanic comedy, it is only in some assumed character of the piece that the poet places himself between it and the spectators; by this contrivance the general satiric tendency is no doubt strengthened, but it is at the cost of strict dramatic form. It is, therefore, only mediately that the satire can exhibit itself; agreeably to the nature and laws of dramatic art, the subjective purpose of the poet must veil itself under, and only twinkle through the objectivity of the representation. And it will even thus easily make itself known ; and we only need to compare such Aristophanic comedies or pieces as Tieck's “ Prinz Zurbino," “ Verkehrte Welt,” &c. with the comedies of Shakspeare, which we have hitherto been considering, in order to apprehend clearly the difference between the proper satiric drama and ordinary comedy. The finer the veil which conceals the subjective purpose of ridicule, and the further that which simply on account of its subjectivity must ever be undramatic and leave a disagreeable impression behind, retires behind the objective screen, the more subtle and the more poetically perfect is the satire. And in this respect we have yet another reason for admiring Shakspeare's masterly skill, as having so exquisitely succeeded in veiling his satirical purpose that few have hitherto detected it.

The very origin of the “Merry Wives of Windsor” specially distinguishes it from every other of our author's productions. So far as we know, it is the only one of Shakspeare's pieces that owes its existence, not to the free disposition of poetic genius, but to an external stimulus. According to a tradition, not, indeed, authenticated, we are indebted for it to a wish of Queen Elizabeth to see the doughty Falstaff in love, with whom “Henry the Fourth” had made her acquainted. In compliance with the request of royalty, Shakspeare is said to have finished the piece in fourteen days-a performance which is no more incredible than the wish of the Queen. In fact, the personality of Falstaff is throughout the piece silently assumed to be well known; at any rate we should never be able to understand his character from the “Merry Wives of Windsor” alone. Since, therefore, Falstaff is in this piece the centre around which the whole action revolves, and the leading idea has its root in his personal peculiarities, it becomes necessary to dilate a little upon his character; and for this purpose it will be necessary to borrow the leading traits of it from the First and Second Parts of “Henry the Fourth.” He well deserves this distinction at our hands, since the greatest dramatic poet of all ages and lands has evidently handled his character with a decided partiality, and has worked it out with more detail and care than he has bestowed on any other of his dramatic creation.

In the character of Falstaff we detect at one glance two strongly marked and prominent features. He possesses an inexhaustible fund of wit and humour, and as great if not greater store of sensuality, and love of enjoyment. All the resources of his wit, inventive talents, and acuteness, are taxed to excuse and defend his sensual propensities, and at the same time to procure the means for their gratification; he has no other end in

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