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Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth :
Carry them here and there, &c.” We are not accustomed to such a call, and would refuse to listen to it. Instead of piecing out imperfections, the audience-the spectators I mean—find it more agreeable to criticise the costume of a crowd representing an army, the docility and evolutions of real horses, the profusion of costly robes, and the scene-painter's merits. If Shakspeare does not give a procession, the actors must, or the house will be thinly attended. Henry the Fifth shows his Coronation, Prospero his Triumph of Amphitrite, Juliet her Funeral, Titania gives us an Embassy from the "farthest steep of India,” Antony and Cleopatra appear in the very thick of the battle of Actium, and the Two Gentlemen of Verona play their frolics in the Carnival. No, we need not be astonished at several of Shakspeare's plays being unfit for the stage. A melodrame, “full of sound and fury,” signifies every thing for the town.
“ Love's Labour Lost” is as perfect, in its kind, as “ Hamlet.” The purpose of the comedy is to ridicule artificial manners, the affectation of students, the forced pedantry of conversation, and the serious folly of striving against nature : and is not this done to the utmost? These are faults scarcely deserving of the lash, and the poet is generally content to place them in situations where they must inevitably expose them. selves. The scene is ever out of doors, as if more effectually to confront them with nature. A good-humoured laugh is in every page, and we join in it throughout. Nothing disturbs the mild humanity of the poet. All the characters, men and women, courtly or clownish, are such as, in our best fellow-feelings, we long to take by the hand, were it not from the dread of being forced to offer our drab-coloured discourse in exchange for their sparkling partycoloured wit. Here Majesty itself is a companionable gentleman ; and we mix in the elegant groups of lords and ladies, or with Costard and Holofernes, and find ourselves always at home. We are carried back to the days of Elizabeth, when chivalrous knights began to understand that poetry was at least on a par with a tournament, and that a philosopher was not so dull as a day of state ; when they first fell in love with the alphabet, and, in compliment to their modern Dulcinea, were ever careful not to open their mouths without due evidence of their having “ fed of the dainties that are bred in a book."
Objections are made to the poverty of the fable, and to the want of skill in the contrivance. But this is a comedy of conversation, and the author would have destroyed his own purpose, had he admitted an intricacy of plot, or placed his characters in situations to call forth the wilder passions. A reader, who can enter into the spirit of the work, will find sufficient interest to keep his attention on the alert. As to the charge of a want of dramatic invention, where the four lovers follow each other to the same spot, and where three of them read their love-sonnets, and hide themselves, by turns, among the trees, possibly that may be considered of little weight. Three of the lovers are so artificial, that nothing could be more natural than for each to pena sonnet to his lady, not only because it was out of his power to speak to her, but because it was the fashion to pen sonnets. Then again, each must sigh her name in a grove, because such had been, time out of
mind, the lover's humour. Besides, the pleasant discovery at the last, and Biron's eloquent poetry, make ample amends.
If Shakspeare had not assured us this young Ferdinand was King of Navarre, I could not have believed it. He is so unlike a king or a Ferdinand. He never once pleads his sacred anointment, nor threatens with his royal displeasure, nor receives flattery from great men of his own making, nor can he despise Costard the clown. His wit allows him to sport a jest, and his good temper to take one from others; and at all times he is superior to playing the monarch over his associates. Longaville, "well fitted in the arts, glorious in arms," and the “ well accomplished youth," Dumain, are as much kings of the conversation as himself. A weariness of courtly pleasures, and the fashion and the idleness of the day, give these youths a butterfly-notion of being book
Scholars they will be, and learned ones, and that at the end of three years; so they are to study very hard, and “not to see a woman in that term,” with other strict observances touching fasting and watching,-easy to
record in a schedule." Their oaths are taken, and Biron, from pure good fellowship, joins the “Holy Alliance." Biron, whose ascendant mind cannot but convince their common sense, has no control over their folly. He argues, he rallies, but all in vain. Rousseau was not the first to " reason against reading;" Shakspeare's Biron was before him; and your hard spellers in a closet ought to con over the following passages betimes :
“Study is like the Heaven's glorious sun,
That will not be deep search'd with saucy looks ;
Save base authority from others books."
“So study evermore is overshot:
While it doth study to have what it would,
'Tis won, as towns with fire; so won, so lost.” The "admired princess," "a maid of grace and complete majesty," with her three lovely girls, soon bring the gentlemen to their senses.
Then, for broad comic, what a list of unconscious drolls! We have a "refined traveller of Spain," a "tough Signor," " this child of fancy, that Armado hight.”
“ One, whom the music of his own vain tongue
A man of compliments.” And he “is in love, yea, he loveth ;” and asks favour of the “sweet welkin to sigh in his face.” Holofernes stalks about with the ghost of a head; vanity was his Judith. This portentous schoolmaster was a satire on Florio, who gave the world a huge volume of hard words, miscalled a dictionary; he provoked Shakspeare by some ugly daubing, and Shakspeare, in return, painted him at full length. He "smells false Latin," and can "humour the ignorant” in bad verses,—"a gift," quoth he," that I have, simple, simple ! a foolish extravagant spirit, &c.” and he is “thankful for it.” Moreover he will play three of the worthies for his own share, “thrice worthy gentleman!” and “will not be put out of countenance.” Sir Nathaniel, “ the hedge-priest,” is his
toad-eater, and piously says, "Sir, I praise the Lord for you, and so may my parishioners;" takes out his table-book to note a most singular and choice epithet;" calls deer-shooting "very reverend sport, truly; and done in the testimony of a good conscience;" and gets a dinner gratis, " for society (saith the text) is the happiness of life.” Some one says Shakspeare's characters are eternal,- God forbid! I beg pardon of the old courtier, Boyet, for placing him in such company, as “he is Cupid's grandfather, and learns news of him," one is that kissed away his hand in courtesy," and
“Pecks up wit, as pigeons peas;, And utters it again when God doth please.” Costard, in his rusticity, looks on him as "a swain, a most simple clown !" and Costard is cunning, he “had rather pray a month with multon and porridge, than fast a week with bran and water," and has the capacity to hope he shall “ fast on a full stomach." All these gentry speak, or ape to speak in
“ Tafsata phrases, silken terms precise,
Three-pil'd hyperboles, spruce affectation,
Figures pedantical.” " They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps, as the little boy, Moth, tells us, that“ handful of wit, who purchases his experience by his penny of observation,” not too young to join, for the joke's sake, and with the best effect, in their full-blown talk, though old enough to laugh at it,-a character the poet has introduced to prove the absurdity of men priding themselves on the deformity of language. Oh! I have forgotten Dull the constable !“a man of good repute, carriage, bearing, and estimation."-" Via, goodman Dull! thou hast spoken no word all this while.
“Dull. Nor understood none neither, sir.”
Thanks to these inverted commas, I have made a brilliant paragraph, and hope it will teach my readers to read “ Love's Labour Lost.” In the mean time let me refresh them with those often quoted lines, the character of Biron :
“A merrier man,
So sweet and voluble is his discourse." And now, almost a novelty I believe, for it is to be feared the passage is little known, here is a long strain of Shakspeare's best poetry. It is put in the mouth of Biron, at the conclusion of the scene, after the discovery in the grove. Never was so true and so beautiful a compliment paid to women.
“ Have at you then, affection's men at arms:
Consider what you first did swear unto ;-
Say, can you fast? your stomachs are too young,
Then fools you were these women to forswear,
ROSEDALE AND ITS TENANTS. About ten years ago the sober monotony of the quiet country neighbourhood in which î have passed the greater part of my life, was enlivened by the erection of one of the prettiest cottages that ever sprang into existence in brick or on paper. ` All strangers go to see Rosedale, and few “cots of spruce gentility” are so well worth seeing. Fancy a low irregular white rough-cast building thatched with reeds, covered with roses, clematis, and passion-flowers, standing on a knoll of fine turf amidst flower-beds and shrubberies and magnificent elms, backed by an abrupt hill, and looking over lawny fields to a green common, which is intersected by a gay high road, dappled with ponds of water, and terminated by a pretty village edging off into rich woodlands : imagine this picture of a place tricked out with ornaments of all sorts, conservatories, roseries, rustic seats, American borders, Gothic dairies, Spanish hermitages, and flowers stuck as close as pins in a pincushion, with every thing, in short, that might best become the walls of an exhibition-room, or the back scene of a play : conceive the interior adorned in a style of elegance still more fanciful, and it will hardly appear surprising that this "unique bijou," as the advertisements call it, should seldom want a tenant. The rapid succession of these occupiers is the more extraordinary matter. Every body is willing to come to Rosedale, but nobody stays.
In the first place it has the original sin of most ornamented cottages, that of being built on the foundation and within the walls of a real labourer's dwelling ; by which notable piece of economy the owner saved some thirty pounds at the expense of making half his rooms mere nutshells, and the whole house incurably damp—to say nothing of the inconvenience of the many apartments which were erected as after-thoughts, the addenda of the work, and are only to be come at by outside passages and French window-doors. Secondly, that necessary part of a two-story mansion, the staircase, was utterly forgotten by architect, proprietor, and builder, and never missed by any person, till, the ladder being one day taken away at the dinner-hour, an Irish labourer accidentally left behind was discovered by the workmen on his return perched like a bird on the top of the roof, he having taken the method of going up the chimney as the quickest way of getting down. This adventure occasioned a call for the staircase, which was at length inserted by the by, and is as much like a step-ladder in a dark corner as any tlting well can be. * Thirdly and lastly, this beautiful abode is
This forgetfulness is not unexampled. A similar accident is said to have happened to Madame d'Arblay in the erection of a cottage built from the profits of her adıni rable Camilla.