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Isabella. What says my brother?
Claudio. Death is a fearful thing.
Isabella. And shamed life a hateful.
Claudio. Aye, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod ; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling regions of thick-ribhed ice;
To be imprison'd in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendant world; or to be worse than worst
Of those, that lawless and incertain thoughts
Imagine howling !--'tis too horrible !
The weariest and most loathed worldly life,
That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment
Can lay on nature, is a paradise
To what we fear of death.
Isabella. Alas! alas!
Claudio. Sweet sister, let me live:
What sin you do to save a brother's life,
Nature dispenses with the deed so far,
That it becomes a virtue."
What adds to the dramatick beauty of this scene and the effect of Claudio's passionate attachment to life is, that it immediately follows the Duke's lecture to him, in the character of the Friar, recommending an absolute indifference to it.
“Reason thus with life,
If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing,
That none but fools would keep: a breath thou art,
Servile to all the skyey influences
That do this babitation, where thou keep'st,
Hourly afflict : merely, thou art death's fool;
For him thou labour'st by thy flight to shun,
And yet run'st toward him still: thou art not noble :
For all the accommodations, that thou bear'st,
Are purs'd by baseness : thou art by no means valiant;
For thou dost fear the soft and tender fork
Of a poor worm : thy best of rest is sleep,
And that thou oft provok'st; yet grossly fear'st
Thy death, which is no more. Thou art not thyself ;
For thou exist'st on many a thousand grains
That issue out of dust : happy thou art not ;
For what thou hast not, still thou striv'st to get ;
And what thou hast, forget'st : thou art not certain ;
For thy complexion shifts to strange effects,
After the moon ; if thou art rich, thou art poor;
For, like an ass, whose back with ingots bows,
Thou bear'st thy heavy riches but a journey,
And death unloads thee: friend thou hast none;
For thy own bowels, which do call thee sire,
The mere effusion of thy proper loins,
Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum,
For ending thee no sooner: thou hast nor youth, nor age;
But, as it were, an after-dinner's sleep,
Dreaming on both: for all thy blessed youth
Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms
Of palsied eld; and when thou art old, and rich,
Thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty,
To make thy riches pleasant. What's yet in this,
That bears the name of life? Yet in this life
Lie hid more thousand deaths; yet death we fear,
That makes these odds all even."
THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR is no doubt a very amusing play, with a great deal of humour, character, and nature in it: but we should have liked it much better, if any one else had been the hero of it, instead of Falstaff. We could have been contented if Shakspeare had not been “ manded to shew the knight in love.” Wits and philosophers, for the most part, do not shine in that character; and Sir John himself, by no means, comes off with flying colours. Many people complain of the degradation and insults to which Don Quixote is so frequently exposed in his various adventures. But what are the unconscious indignities which he suffers, compared with the sensible mortifications which Falstaff is made to bring upon himself? What are the blows and buffettings which the Don receives from the staves of the Yanguesian carriers, or from Sancho Panza's more hard-hearted hands, compared with the contamination of the buck
THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.
basket, the disguise of the fat woman of Brentford, and the horns of Herne the hunter, which are discovered on Sir John's head ? In reading the play, we indeed wish him well through all these discomfitures, but it would have been as well if he had not got into them. Falstaff in the MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR is not the man he was in the two parts of Henry IV. His wit and eloquence have left him.
Instead of making a butt of others, he is made a butt of by them. Neither is there a single particle of love in him to excuse his follies : he is merely a designing, barefaced knave, and an unsuccessful one. The scene with Ford as Master Brook, and that with Simple, Slender's man, who comes to ask after the Wise Woman, are almost the only ones in which his old intellectual ascendency appears.
He is like a person recalled to the stage to perform an unaccustomed and ungracious part; and in which we perceive only some faint sparks of those flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the hearers in a roar." But the single scene with Doll Tear sheet, of Mrs. Quickly's account of his desiring - to eat some of housewife Keach’s prawns,” and telling her “ to be no so familiarity with such people,” is worth the whole of the MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR put together. Ford's jealousy, which is the mainspring of the comick inci. dents is certainly very well managed. Page, on the contrary, appears to be somewhat uxorious in his disposition; and we have pretty plain indications of the effect of the characters of the husbands on the different degrees of fidelity in their
wives. Mrs. Quickly makes a very lively go-be-
tween, both between Falstaff and his Dulcineas,
and Anne Page and her lovers, and seems in the
latter case so intent on her own interest, as total-
ly to overlook the intentions of her employers.
Her master, Doctor Caius, the Frenchman, and
her fellow servant Jack Bugby, are very
pletely described. This last - mentioned person is
rather quaintly commended by Mrs. Quickly as
“an bonest, willing, kind fellow, as ever servant
shall come in house withal, and I warrant you,
no telltale, nor no breedbate ; his worst fault is
that he is given to prayer; he is something peev-
ish that way ; but no body but has his fault."
The Welch Parson, Sir Hugh Evans (a title
which in those days was given to the clergy)
is an excellent character in all respects. He is
as respectable as he is laughable. He has “ very
good discretions, and very odd humours.” The
duel scene with Caius gives him an opportuni-
ty to shew his “ cholers and his tremblings of
mind,” his valour and his melancholy, in an irre-
sistible manner. In the dialogue, which at his
mother's request he holds with his pupil, William
Page, to shew his progress in learning, it is hard
to say whether the simplicity of the master or
the scholar is the greatest. Nym, Bardolph, and
Pistol, are but the shadows of what they were ;
and Justice Shallow himself has little of his con-
But his cousin, Slender, makes up for the deficiency. He is a very potent piece of imbecility. In him the pretensions of the worthy Gloucestershire family are well kept up, and