Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

66

of art in the arrangement of the two friends contrasting in character each with the lady he is to love, and even with the servant who accompanies him. But the actual unravelling of the knot is by the mere incident of PROTEUS being discovered by both JULIA and VALENTINE in the act of making love to SILVIA. Shame makes him feel the truth of the words in which JULIA excuses her disguise in man's clothes“ It is the less blot, modesty finds,

Women to change their shapes, than men their minds." This little touch makes PROTEUS in six lines repent of his fault, confess, and say

“ What is in Silvia's face, but I may spy

More fresh in Julia's with a constant eye?” Contrast this easy shrift with WOLSEY’s remorse in Henry VIII.-making all allowance for the difference of subject

or with the prolonged humiliation given to the various traitors in the Tempest. So in the Winter's Tale, the oracle requires that the wrong done by LEONTES' jealousy shall be as far as possible undone before the knot is unravelled ; but the opening of the last act shows that the only condition on which the poet will allow LEONTES to escape the penalty of his wrong action is, that he has “redeemed his fault by saint-like sorrow," and paid down more penitence than done trespass. So still more strikingly in Cymbeline, with the reconciliation of POSTHUMUS and IMOGEN. POSTHUMUS' mistaken suspicion of IMOGEN is cured only when he deserves its cure by showing that want of faith has not touched the constancy of his life. As in the Winter's Tale, this note is struck at the outset of the fifth act, where, with the bloody handkerchief in his hand, POSTHUMUS wishes he had been killed instead of IMOGEN, and vows that now he will die for her.

The Tempest, with Cymbeline and the Winter's Tale, form a group succeeding the great tragedies, Othello,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Lear, Hamlet, which show Shakespeare's mind to have been grappling with the disappointments and trials of life. In Hamlet he is dwelling on such wrongs as the unavenged murder of the king, and the consequent torture of a nature both sensitive and irresolute ; in Lear we see a father done to death by the ingratitude of his children ; and we, ask why such sorrows follow on so small a fault as LEAR'S, when in Othello we see such a villain as Iago able to wreck lives far above his own. And, repeated over and over again, as in OPHELIA'S or CORDELIA's death, we see the innocent suffering with the guilty. So little is known of the life of Shakespeare, that we can only surmise that there may have been something in his own lot which forced him to such contemplation of sorrow and evil, and especially of the baseness of ingratitude.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that in the Tempest, Cymbeline, and Winter's Tale the poet seems to rise into a calmer atmosphere, and instead of each play closing with confusion and despair, we have in each a reconciliation.* In both Cymbeline and the Winter's Tale it is a husband who receives the forgiveness of a wrongły-suspected wifeforgiveness only won after penitence. In the Tempest it is PROSPERO who first by his magical power wakes remorse in his enemies' hearts, and then has the greatness to pardon.

(2.) Metrical tests also have their place in questions of date. They will be found fully applied in Mr. Furnivalls. Succession of Shakespeare's Works; but the four most useful are these :

* “It is not, as in the earlier comedies -- the Two Gentlemen of Verona, Much Ado about Nothing, As You Like It, and others -a mere dénouement. The resolution of the discords in these latest plays is not a mere stage necessity, or a necessity of composition resorted to by the dramatist to effect an ending of his play, and little interesting his imagination or his heart. Its significance here is ethical and spiritual: it is a moral necessity.” --DOWDEN.

66

The later plays* have

1. Few rhyming lines.
2. Few end-stopped lines.
3. Many lines with an extra syllable.

4. Many lines with a weak ending. No metrical test can be used confidently by itself, and even taken together they must not be unduly pressed, as if the accuracy of the arithmetic guaranteed the certainty of the inferences ; still they afford a fair indication of periods in the development of Shakespeare's style. As instances of 1 and 2, compare BIRON'S speech (Love's Labour's Lost, i. 1, 101)"Well, say

I am ; why should proud summer boast,
Before the birds have any cause to sing ?
Why should I joy in any abortive birth?
At Christmas I no more desire a rose,
Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth ;
But like of each thing that in season grows.
So you, to study now it is too late,

Climb o'er the house to unlock the little gate. with PROSPERO'S (Tempest, i. 2, 285)

“Dull thing, I say so; he, that Caliban,

Whom now I keep in service. Thou best know'st
What torment I did find thee in : thy groans
Did make wolves howl, and penetrate the breasts
Of ever-angry bears : it was a torment
To lay upon the damn’d, which Sycorax
Could not again undo ; it was mine art,
When I arriv’d, and heard thee, that made gape

The pine, and let thee out.”
* A few of the most striking results are

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

As an example of (4) weak ending; i.e. where the second syllable of the fifth foot is a word that would naturally be without accent *.

“It should' the good' ship so' have swallo'w'd, and

The fraughting souls within her.” This must be distinguished from (3) an extra syllable, as in the next line

“The fraugh'ting soul's within' her. Be' collec'ted.The effect of the weak ending and of the extra syllable is to reduce the monotony of the metre.

Origin of the play. Little or nothing is known about the pre-existing story which Shakespeare used as the groundwork of the Tempest. The only work known which bears any resemblance to it is one unearthed in Germany by the celebrated Tieck, considered by him to be itself modified from an unknown English original. It is called Die Schöne Sidea, and an abstract of it may be seen, quoted from Mr. Thom's Three Notelets on Shakespeare, in Mr. Aldis Wright's edition. (Intro. p. xiii.) It is enough here to say that in it the son of an usurping prince comes into the power of the brother deposed, who is, like PROSPERO, a magician; that he tries to resist, but is forced, like FERDINAND, to drop his sword by enchantment, and that he is set, also like FERDINAND, to pile logs, while Sidea, moved with pity to see him thus employed, grants him her love just as MIRANDA does. Those who have access to old libraries would do well to detect the original form from which Sidea was derived.

nor

on

to

* Weak endings are-
and for

that
but from
by if

with There are also many light endings approaching these, as parts of the verbs, to be, do, and other auxiliaries, also pronouns, conjunctions, &c.

or

The Plot. The drama of the Tempest, admirable as it is for its beauty and interest, is at the same time perfectly simple in its structure, and for the most part in its language; yet, like most of Shakespeare's plays, it presents as many different points of view as a kaleidoscope. To take one of the most obvious, one might say, that had the drama a second name, it might have been called, “ Lost but Found."* If the main action be the finding of the lost Duke, yet this key-note sounds again and again through infinitely subtle variations in the other characters of the piece. The contrast between the first and second scenes gives the audience the clue at once: the first depicts the shipwreck; the second shows us the foundered ship safely ensconced in harbour. ARIEL, whose groans as SYCORAX' slave did make wolves howl,” becomes PROSPERO'S freedman, and “foots it featly here and there,” singing meanwhile the sweetest songs, till he regains the full liberty he had lost, and can "fly on the bat's back merrily," or “lie in the cowslip's bell.” So while FERDINAND'S eyes are ne'er at ebb since he beheld the king his father wrecked,” ALONZO will not be comforted because his “son is lost:" again at the very time that ALONZO is mourning because “in his rate his daughter's lost, who is so far removed from Italy that he can ne'er see her again,” his lost son is winning him a new daughter of far greater interest to the reader than the shadowy CLARIBEL

66

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* Compare GONZALO's final speech, which is the real epilogue to the play:

“Was Milan thrust from Milan, that his issue

Should become kings of Naples? O, rejoice
Beyond a common joy; and set it down
With gold on lasting pillars: In one voyage
Did Claribel her husband find at Tunis;
And Ferdinand, her brother, found a wife
Where he himself was lost: Prospero, his dukedom,
In a poor isle; and all of us, ourselves,
When no man was his own.”-Act v. sc. I, 205.

« ZurückWeiter »