« PreviousContinue »
LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST.
IF F we were to part with any of the author's comedies, it should be this. Yet we should be loth to part with Don Adriano de Armado, that mighty potentate of nonsense, or his page, that handful of wit; with Nathaniel the curate, or Holofernes the schoolmaster, and their dispute after dinner on " the golden cadences of poesy;" with Costard the clown, or Dull the constable. Biron is too accomplished a character to be lost to the world, and yet he could not appear without his fellow courtiers and the king: and if we were to leave out the ladies, the gentlemen So that we believe we would have no mistresses. may let the whole play stand as it is, and we shall hardly venture to " set a mark of reprobation on it." Still we have some objections to the style, which we think savours more of the pedantick spirit of Shakspeare's time than of his own genius; more of controversial divinity, and the logick of Peter Lombard, than of the inspiration of the Muse. It transports us quite as much to the manners of the court, and the quirks of courts of law, as to the scenes of nature, or
or the fairy land of his own imagination. Shakspeare has set himself to imitate the tone of polite conversation then prevailing among the fair, the witty, and the learned, and he has imitated it but too faithfully. It is as if the hand of Titian had been employed to give grace to the curls of a full bottomed periwig, or Raphael had attempted to give expression to the tapestry figures in the House of Lords. Shakspeare has put an excellent description of this fashionable jargon into the mouth of the critical Holofernes "as too picked, too spruce, too affected, too odd, as it were, too peregrinate, as I may call it ;" and nothing can be more marked than the difference when he breaks loose from the trammels he had imposed on himself, "as light as bird from brake," and speaks in his own person. We think, for instance, that in the following soliloquy the poet has fairly got the start of Queen Elizabeth and her maids of honour:
"Biron. O! and I, forsooth, in love, I that have been love's whip;
A very beadle to an amorous sigh:
A critick; nay, a night-watch constable,
A domineering pedant o'er the boy,
This whimpled, whining, purblind, wayward boy,
Of trotting parators (O my little heart!)
And wear his colours like a tumbler's hoop!
Still a repairing; ever out of frame;
That Cupid will impose for my neglect
Well, I will love, write, sigh, pray, sue, and groan :
The character of Biron drawn by Rosaline and that which Biron gives of Boyet are equally happy. The observations on the use and abuse of study, and on the power of beauty to quicken the understanding as well as the senses, are excellent. The scene which has the greatest dramatick effect is that in which Biron, the king, Longaville, and Dumain, successively detect each other and are detected in their breach of their vow and in their profession of attachment to their several mistresses, in which they suppose themselves to be overheard by no one. The reconciliation between these lovers and their sweethearts is also very good, and the penance which Rosaline imposes on Biron, before he can expect to gain her consent to marry him, full of propriety and beauty.
"Rosaline. Oft have I heard of you, my lord Biron,
That lie within the mercy of your wit.
To weed this wormwood from your faithful brain;
'T' enforce the pained impotent to smile.
Biron. To move wild laughter in the throat of death? It cannot be it is impossible:
Mirth cannot move a soul in agony.
Rosaline. Why, that's the way to choke a gibing spirit,
Which shallow laughing hearers give to fools:
Of him that hears it; never in the tongue
Of him that makes it: then, if sickly ears,
Will hear your idle scorns, continue then,
And I will have you, and that fault withal;
But, if they will not, throw away that spirit,
And I shall find you empty of that fault,
Right joyful of your reformation.
"Biron. A twelvemonth? Well, befall what will befall,
I'll jest a twelvemonth in a hospital."
The famous cuckoo-song closes the play: but we shall add no more criticisms: "the words of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo.”
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
THIS admirable comedy used to be frequently acted till of late years. Mr. Garrick's Benedick was one of his most celebrated characters; and Mrs. Jordan, we have understood, played Beatrice very delightfully. The serious part is still the most prominent here, as in other instances that we have noticed. Hero is the principal figure in the piece, and leaves an indelible impression on the mind by her beauty, her tenderness, and the hard trial of her love. The passage in which Claudio first makes a confession of his affection towards her conveys as pleasing an image of the entrance of love into a youthful bosom as can well be imagined.
"Oh, my lord,
When you went onward with this ended action,
I look'd upon her with a soldier's eye,
That lik'd, but had a rougher task in hand
In the scene at the altar, when Claudio, urged on by the villain Don John, brings the charge of in