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All's Well that Ends Well. To those who are accustomed to study Shakspeare through the distorted medium of a Theatre, this play is utterly unknown; yet should curiosity prompt them to a perusal, they will be surprised that a drama possessing so much variety of character, such delight. ful scenes of sentiment and humour, should be altogether iaid aside and forgotten. It is only in the closet that we become familiar with the genius of Shakspeare. The heavy hand of the player has no power over our musing moments. Nor are we deafened with the shouts of an applauding multitude, as ignorant as himself. Let this great poet be more generally studied, and the Drama's reformation will speedily follow. The stage will no longer be the pander of public taste, but its monitor.
The serious portion of this comedy comprises the characters of the Countess Rousillon, Helena, and the King of France. The comic, those of Lafeu, the Clown, and that most amusing of all cowardly boasters, (Falstaff alone excepted,) Paroles. The Countess is a noble Lady, who has been so familiar with sorrow; who bas felt
"So many quirks of joy and grief,
“ Can woman her unto't.". Her maternal love for Helena becomes more interesting, compared with the conduct of her unworthy Son; and her struggle between duty and affection is finely portrayed. Though retired and unpretending, her character is so delicately tinislied, that it carries a charm beyond all the other personages of the Drama. The melancholy tone that pervades her parting advice to Bertram is exceedingly beautiful.
" Be thou blest, Bertram; and succeed thy father
"Fall on thy head.” The King is a portrait of that happy old age which contemplates the past with complacency, and the future witbout dread : 'froin whom time has not taken away the power of temperate eujoyment, nor in whom enjoyment has created an unwonted desire to live. How admirably illustrative of his character is his speech to Ber. tram, where he calls to mind the beloved companion of his youth, and draws a picture of unequalled gracefulness and beauty,
“ I would I had that corporal soundness now,
“First try'd our soldiership! He did look far
“ Making them proud of his humility:" and in what perfect harmony with this description, is the following pathetic rrish—a wish to which every mind of feeling and sensibility cannot fail to respond.
“ Let me not live
“ Expire before their fashions.' Upon which the King engrafts the following wish of his own:
“), after him, do after him wish too,
" To give some labourer room." Shakspeare has been peculiarly happy in his pictures of female devotedness and constancy. To an enchanting delicacy he has added an heroic spirit, that can despise danger when opposed to woman's love. The character of Helena is highly impassionel. Her ardent affection for Bertram, and her modest concealment, are touched with infinite tenderness; and her candid avowal, when the Countess commands her to disclose the state of her heart, is worthy of a maid
" Too virtuous “For the contempt of Empire." Her reflections on the many dangers to which Bertram is exposed by their untoward marriage, and her resolution to depart a barefoot pilgrim, that her presence may no longer be a bar to his return, are in perfect accordance with her noble character; and we hardly think that poetical justice is awarded, when the unworthy Bertrain, to use the phrase of Jobnson, is dimissed to happiness.
The Clown inherits all the quibbling qualities of his motley bre. thren, His colloquies with Helena and the Countess, though they partake too much of those licentious freedoms that were the vice of the age, are rich in humour. We particularly instance his several reasons for marriage, and his bountiful answer that fits all ques. tions, “O Lord, Sir ""' We have here some curious allusions to old customs turned to very merry account. The French lord, Lafeu, is a gay old courtier, that points his jokes with intinite pleasantry. We do not remember a recurrence of this witty portrait'in any other of Shakspeare's plays.
The Boaster and Coward Paroles is greatly superior to the Thraso of Terence. It is not often that a character every way contemptible is productive of such abundant merriment. He has none of Falstaff's Instinct to help him out of a dilemma, nor is he planet. struck like the Braggadocio Bobadil. He has not even Pistol's consolation of swearing while he swallows his leek. Yet does his whimsical candour ensure him a favourable reception. He is a coward, and scruples not to confess it-for he threatens to put his
tongue into a butter-woman's mouth, and to buy another of Ba. jazet's mule. His soliloquy about the recovery of the drum, and the various lies that he proposes ; such as the drowning of his clothes, the baring of his beard, and leaping thirty fathoms from the window of a citadel, are quite as good as Falstaff's hacking his sword, and tickling Bardolph's nose with spear-grass to make it bleed. His opening dialogue with Helena might have been spared ; its grossness however is more to be imputed to the lady, who to her quick questions could expect nothing less than merry answers. Falstaff, with all his waggery, scarcely excites more laughter than Paroles.
The Clown chants certain fragments of ancient ballads, which give a still keener edge to our antiquarian research on their recovery. He lets no occasion slip of satirizing the Puritans for their superstitious abhorrence to a Surplice, “because they say 'tis made of the same thing that your villanous sin is committed in, of your profane Holland," (Cupid's Whirligig 1616.) He also makes an allusion to “the flowery way that leads to the broad gato,” for which we could have him whipped. It is certain that Shakspeare is never so dullas when he has recourse to profaneness.
There can be no doubt that the original title of “ All's Well that Ends Well," was “ Love's Labour Won," and was intended by Shakspeare as a counter-title to “ Love's Labour Lost.” For Meres particularly notices a Drama under this title. Mr. Malone conjectures that the alteration was suggested in consequence of the adage being found in the body of the play. The name indeed occurs trice-viz. in Act 4th, Scene 4th, and in Act 5th, Scene 1st : in the two speeches of Helena. The story belongs to Boccace, but Painter's Gilletta of Narbon, in the first volume of The Palace of Pleasure, 4, 1598, is source whence Shakspeare immediately derived nis plot. But if for the serious portion he is partly indebted to the Novel, the Comic is entirely original.
The Conductors of this work print no Plays but those which they have seen acted. The Stage Directions are given from their own personal observations, during the most recent performances.
EXITS and ENTRANCES. R. means Rihgt; L. Left; D. F. Door in Flat ; R. D. Right Door; L. D. Left Door ; S. E. Second Entrance; U. E. Upper Entrance ; M. D. Middle Door.
KING OF FRANCE.-First dress-Black Velvet dress, and shoes. Second dress-Purple velvet dress, robe, and crown.
BERTRAM.-White shoes, buff waistcoat and pantaloons, scarlet ily, military sash, sword and hat, yellow boots.
LEFEU.-Crimson velvet dress and cloak, white stockings, black velvet shoes, and hat.
DUMAIN.-Buff waistcoat and pantaloons, green fiy, military sash, sword, hat, and boots.
LEWIS.-Buff waistcoat, &c. the same as Bertram's.
BIRON.-Light blue dress, cloak, and pantaloons, boots, sword, and hat.
JAQUES.- The same as Biron's.
TOURVILLE.-Light blue dress, crimson puffs, blue pantaloops, sword, and white sash.
PAROLES.- First dress-White dress, blue puffs, white sash, scarlet fly, blue pantaloons, sword, boots, and bat. Second dress An old blue and black dress, and stockings.
STEWARD.-Grey worsted dress, brown puffs, brown pantaloons, and sword.
CLOWN.-Blue, orange, white, and scarlet dress, one yellow and one red stocking, hat the same, shoes, and sword.
FIRST SOLDIER. | Jackets and short breeches, scarlet SECOND SOLDIER.- } stockings, boots, and hats. COUNTESS -White dress, scarlet robe. HELENA,-First dress-White, neatly trimmed and spangled. Second dress-A pilgrim's gown, &c. WIDOW.-Plainly trimmed peasant-dress. DIANA.MARIANA.
- } Peasant dresses.
Cast of the Characters, as performed at the Theatre Royal
Covent Garden, 1811.
Mr. C. Kemble.
Miss S. Booth.
.. Miss Bolton.
SCENE,---Partly in France, and partly in Tuscany.