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and joyous assembly mixes with the terrors of the adventures narrated, and with the cold, dismal night outside. It becomes this solely by the mysterious veil that envelops the power of chance which is spread over the whole. It is cheerful because through this veil we everywhere get a glimmer of the light of a future which is leading all towards what is good, and because we everywhere feel that the dismal darkness of the present will be cleared off by a necessity which, even though equally dark, is internal. And yet a gentle shudder runs through our frame . . . when we behold how, owing to the mysterious connection in the power of evil, mischief follows close upon the footsteps of sin, threatening the welfare of the whole kingdom; and again when we behold how accident, as the avenging angel, seizes and destroys even the unwilling tools of crime, and how this complication of crimes even threatens to disturb the peaceful, innocent happiness of the old shepherd and his family.

It is self-evident that when life appears like a strange winter's tale, the conception cannot and should not be regarded as the plain and absolute truth. Shakspeare's intention was rather to set forward but one side, one element of the whole which is but little taken into consideration. And, in fact, this view of life contains the profound truth that life does not present itself to man only in its undimmed transparency and perfect clearness, like a bright, cheerful summer's day, but that it is enveloped in a mysterious, irremovable veil, and governed by a power that cannot always be recognized. Shakspeare does not forget to point to the fact that the only means a man has of protecting himself from this dark power is by strict adherence to the moral law and to the ethical order of the universe, and that, on the other hand, he inevitably falls a prey to it by wandering from the right path, by passion and want of self-control, and thus becomes a play-ball to its good or bad humours.


[From Gervinus's Shakespeare Commentaries." *] Shakespeare has treated Greene's narrative in the way he has usually dealt with his bad originals-he has done away with some indelicacy in the matter, and some unnatural things in the form; he has given a better foundation to the characters and course of events; but to impart an intrinsic value to the subject as a whole, to bring a double action into unity, and to give to the play the character of a regular drama by mere arrangements of matter and alteration of motive was not possible. The wildness of the fiction, the improbability and contingency of the events, the gap in the time which divides the two actions between two generations, could not be repaired by any art. Shakespeare, therefore, began upon his theme in quite an opposite direction. He increased still more the marvellous and miraculous in the given subject, he disregarded more and more the requirements of the real and probable, and treated time, place, and circumstances with the utmost arbitrariness. He added the character of Antigonus and his death by the bear, Paulina and her second marriage in old age, the pretended death and the long forbearance and preservation of Hermione, Autolycus and his cunning tricks, and he increased thereby the improbable circumstances and strange incidents. He overleaped all limits, mixing up together Russian emperors and the Delphic oracle and Julio Romano, chivalry and heathendom, ancient forms of religion and Whitsuntide pastorals. Greene had already taught him to pay no attention to probability with regard to place, since in his narrative reference had already been made to the sea-shore in Bohemia and to the island of Delphos. Added to this, there are mistakes in the style of those of Cervantes, where the theft of Sancho Panza's ass is forgotten. Prince Florizel, who (iv. 4) appears

* Shakespeare Commentaries, by Dr. G. G. Gervinus, translated by F. E. Bunnett : revised ed. (London, 1875), p. 802 fol.


in shepherd's clothes, exchanges immediately afterwards his court garments with Autolycus in the same scene; the old shepherd (iii. 3) knows at once, but whence does not appear, that the slaughtered Antigonus was an old man. Jonson and Dryden have made all this of far too much consequence, even while laughing at it. Pope has even doubted the genuineness of the play. The scenic effect, the excellent characterization of certain personages, and the beauty of the language of the play were acknowledged, but the poet was continually upbraided for those very marvels which, in our opinion, he only intended as such. Three times in the play, and once for all in the title, he dwelt as emphatically as possible on the fictitious character of the play, which is wholly founded on the incredible and improbable. If we will dispute with him, it must be on the one point only—whether fictions be admissible on the stage or not. We must not criticise mistakes here and there, which, if that admissibility be allowed, may well have been purposed by the poet. ..

While Shakespeare has at other times permitted in his dramas the existence of a twofold action, connected by a common idea, it was not necessary in the instance before us to sever the wasplike body of Greene's story, nor could he have entirely concentrated the two actions; he could but connect them indistinctly by a leading idea in both, although the manner in which he has outwardly connected them is a delicate and spirited piece of art, uniting, as he has done, tragedy and comedy, making the one elevate the other, and thus enriching the stage with a tragi-comic pastoral, a combination wholly unknown even to the good Polonius. ...

Shakespeare has written little that can compare with the fourth act of The Winter's Tale for variety, liveliness, and beauty. But the fifth act rises still higher in the magic scene of the reanimation of Hermione and the description of the recognition that precedes it. The poet has wisely placed this event behind the scenes, otherwise the play would have

been too full of powerful scenes. "The dignity of this act,” it is said,“ was worth the audience of kings and princes; but the actors, too, who should play these scenes worthily, ought to be kings." The mere relation of this meeting is in itself a rare masterpiece of prose description.


[From Mrs. Jameson's " Characteristics of Women."*] The story of Florizel and Perdita is but an episode in The Winter's Tale, and the character of Perdita is properly kept subordinate to that of her mother, Hermione; yet the picture is perfectly finished in every part; Juliet herself is not more firmly and distinctly drawn. . .

The qualities which impart to Perdita her distinct individuality are the beautiful combination of the pastoral with the elegant- of simplicity with elevation -- of spirit with sweet

The exquisite delicacy of the picture is apparent. To understand and appreciate its effective truth and nature, we should place Perdita beside some of the nymphs of Arcadia, or the Chlorises and Sylvias of the Italian pastorals, who, however graceful in themselves, when opposed to Perdita seem to melt away into mere poetical abstractions; as, in Spenser, the fair but fictitious Florimel, which the subtle enchantress had moulded out of snow,“ vermeil-tinctured,” and informed with an airy spirit that knew “all wiles of woman's wits," fades and dissolves away when placed next to the real Florimel, in her warm, breathing, human loveliness.

Perdita does not appear till the fourth act, and the whole of the character is developed in the course of a single scene (the fourth) with a completeness of effect which leaves nothing to be required-nothing to be supplied. She is first introduced in the dialogue between herself and Florizel, where she compares her own lowly state to his princely rank, and expresses her fears of the issue of their unequal attachment. With all her timidity and her sense of the distance which

* American ed. (Boston, 1857), pp. 173 fol. and 222 fol.

separates her from her lover, she breathes not a single word which could lead us to impugn either her delicacy or her dignity.

The impression of her perfect beauty and airy elegance of demeanour is conveyed in two exquisite passages :

“ What you do
Still betters what is done. When you speak, sweet,
I'd have you do it ever : when you sing, .
I'd have you buy and sell so, so give alms,
Pray so; and, for the ordering your affairs,
To sing them too: when you do dance, I wish you
A wave o' the sea, that you might ever do
Nothing but that; move still, still so, and own
No other function."

“I take thy hand, this hand,
As soft as dove's down, and as white as it,
Or Ethiopian's tooth, or the fann'd snow

That 's bolted by the northern blasts twice o'er.” The artless manner in which her innate nobility of soul shines forth through her pastoral disguise is thus brought before us at once :

“This is the prettiest low-born Jass that ever

Ran on the green-sward ; nothing she does or seems
But smacks of something greater than herself,

Too noble for this place.” Her natural loftiness of spirit breaks out where she is menaced and reviled by the King, as one whom his son has degraded himself by merely looking on. She bears the royal frown without quailing ; but the moment he is gone the immediate recollection of herself, and of her humble state, of her hapless love, is full of beauty, tenderness, and nature :

“Even here undone !
I was much afeard; for once or twice,
I was about to speak and tell him plainly,
The selfsame sun that shines upon his court
Hides not his visage from our cottage, but
Looks on alike. Will 't please you, sir, be gone?

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