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this. In a mind like Hermione's, where the strength of feeling is founded in the power of thought, and where there is little of impulse or imagination,—“the depth, but not the tumult of the soul,”* – there are but two influences which predominate over the will,--time and religion. And what then remained, but that, wounded in heart and spirit, she should retire from the world ?
- not to brood over her wrongs, but to study forgiveness, and wait the fulfilment of the oracle which had promised the termination of her sor
Thus a premature reconciliation would not only have been painfully inconsistent with the character; it would also have deprived us of that most beautiful scene, in which Hermione is discovered to her husband as the statue or image of herself. And here we have another instance of
The gods approve
“Il pouvait y avoir des vagues majestueuses et non de l'orage dans son cæur," was finely observed of Madame de Staël in her maturer years; it would have been true of Hermione at any period of her life.
that admirable art, with which the dramatic character is fitted to the circumstances in which it is placed: that perfect command over her own feelings, that complete self possession necessary to this extraordinary situation, is consistent with all that we imagine of Hermione : in any other woman it would be so incredible as to shock all our ideas of probability.
This scene, then, is not only one of the most picturesque and striking instances of stage effect to be found in the ancient or modern drama, but, by the skilful manner in which it is prepared, it has, wonderful as it appears, all the merit of consistency and truth. The grief, the love, the remorse, and impatience of Leontes, are finely contrasted with the astonishment and admiration of Perdita, who, gazing on the figure of her mother like one entranced, looks as if she were also turned to marble. There is here one little instance of tender remembrance in Leontes, which adds to the charming impression of Hermione's character.
Chide me, dear stone! that I may say indeed
In thy not chiding, for she was as tender
Thus she stood,
The effect produced on the different persons of
Thus she stood,
The fixture of her eye bas motion in 't,
And by Polixenes,
The very life seems warm upon her lip,
appear strangely applied to a statue, such as we usually imagine it—of the cold colourless marble ; but it is evident that in this scene Hermione personates one of those images or effigies, such as we may see in the old gothic cathedrals, in which the stone, or marble, was coloured after nature. I remember coming suddenly upon one of these effigies, either at Basle or at Fribourg, which made me start: the figure was large as life; the drapery of crimson, powdered with stars of gold ; the face, and eyes, and hair tinted after nature, though faded by time; it stood in a gothic niche, over a tomb, as I think, and in a kind of dim uncertain light. It would have been very easy for a living person to represent such an effigy, particularly if it had been painted by that “rare Italian master, Julio Romano,"* who, as we are informed, was the reputed author of this wonderful statue.
The moment when Hermione descends from her pedestal to the sound of soft music, and throws herself without speaking into her husband's arms, is one of inexpressible interest. It appears to me that her silence during the whole of this scene (except where she invokes a blessing on her daughter's head) is in the finest taste as a poetical beauty, besides being an admirable trait of character. The misfortunes of Hermione, her long religious seclusion, the wonderful and almost supernatural part she has just enacted, have invested her with such a sacred and awful charm, that any words put into her mouth, must, I think, have injured the solemn and profound pathos of the situation.
* Winter's Tale, act v. scene 11.
There are several among Shakspeare's characters which exercise a far stronger power over our feelings, our fancy, our understanding, than that of Hermione; but not one,-unless perhaps Cordelia,-constructed upon so high and pure a principle. It is the union of gentleness with power which constitutes the perfection of mental grace. Thus among the ancients, with whom the graces were also the charities, (to show, perhaps, that while form alone may constitute beauty, sentiment is
necessary to grace,) one and the same word