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I told you what would come of this. Beseech you,
Of your own state take care; this dream of mine,-
Being now awake, I 'll queen it no inch farther,
But milk my ewes and weep.”
“How often have I told you ’t would be thus !

How often said, my dignity would last

But till 't were known !" Perdita has another characteristic, which lends to the poetical delicacy of the delineation a certain strength and moral elevation which is peculiarly striking. It is that sense of truth and rectitude, that upright simplicity of mind, which disdains all crooked and indirect means, which would not stoop for an instant to dissemblance, and is mingled with a noble confidence in her love and in her lover. In this spirit is her answer to Camillo, who says, courtier-like:

“Besides you know
Prosperity 's the very bond of love,
Whose fresh complexion and whose heart together

Affliction alters.”
To which she replies :

“One of these is true ;
I think affliction may subdue the cheek,

But not take in the mind.” This love of truth, this conscientiousness, which forms so distinct a feature in the character of Perdita, and mingles with its picturesque delicacy a certain firmness and dignity, is maintained consistently to the last. When the two lovers fly together from Bohemia, and take refuge in the court of Leontes, the real father of Perdita, Florizel presents himself before the King with a feigned tale, in which he has been artfully instructed by the old counsellor Camillo. During this scene, Perdita does not utter a word. In the strait in which they are placed, she cannot deny the story which Florizel relates —she will not confirm it. Her silence, in spite of all the compliments and greetings of Leontes, has a peculiar and characteristic grace; and, at the conclusion of

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the scene, when they are betrayed, the truth bursts from her as if instinctively, and she exclaims, with emotion :

“The heaven sets spies upon us, will not have

Our contract celebrated.” After this scene, Perdita says very little. The description of her grief, while listening to the relation of her mother's death,

“ One of the prettiest touches of all ... was when, at the relation of
the queen's death, with the manner how she came to 't ... how at-
tentiveness wounded her daughter ; till, from one sign of dolour to
another, she did, with an 'Alas,' I would fain say, bleed tears,”-
her deportment, too, as she stands gazing on the statue of
Hermione, fixed in wonder, admiration, and sorrow, as if she
too were marble, -

“O royal piece!
There 's magic in thy majesty, which has
From thy admiring daughter took the spirits,

Standing like stone with thee,”—
are touches of character conveyed indirectly, and which serve
to give a more finished effect to the beautiful picture. ...

The character of Hermione exhibits what is never found in the other sex, but rarely in our own, yet sometimes—digvity without pride, love without passion, and tenderness without weakness. To conceive a character in which there enters so much of the negative, required perhaps no rare and astonishing effort of genius, such as created a Juliet, a Miranda, or a Lady Macbeth; but to delineate such a character in the poetical form, to develop it through the medium of action and dialogue, without the aid of description; to preserve its tranquil, mild, and serious beauty, its unimpassioned dignity, and at the same time keep the strongest hold upon our sympathy and our imagination ; and out of this exterior calm produce the most profound pathos, the most vivid impression of life and internal power—it is this which renders the character of Hermione one of Shakspeare's masterpieces.

1

Hermione is a queen, a matron, and a mother; she is good and beautiful, and royally descended. A majestic sweetness, a grand and gracious simplicity, an easy, unforced, yet dignified self-possession, are in all her deportment, and in every word she utters. She is one of those characters of whom it has been said proverbially that“ still waters run deep.” Her passions are not vehement, but in her settled mind the sources of pain or pleasure, love or resentment, are like the springs that feed the mountain lakes, impenetrable, unfathomable, and inexhaustible.

Shakspeare has conveyed (as is his custom) a part of the character of Hermione in scattered touches and through the impressions which she produces on all around her. Her surpassing beauty is alluded to in few but strong terms :

“ This jealousy
Is for a precious creature; as she is rare
Must it be great.
Praise her but for this her out-door form

(Which, on my faith, deserves high speech).”
“If, one by one, you wedded all the world,
Or from the all that are took something good
To make a perfect woman, she you kill'd
Would be unparallel’d.”
“I might have look'd upon my queen’s full eyes,
Have taken treasure from her lips ...

and left them More rich for what they yielded.” The expressions “most sacred lady," "dread mistress," “sovereign,” with which she is addressed or alluded to, the boundless devotion and respect of those around her, and their confidence in her goodness and innocence, are so many additional strokes in the portrait....

She receives the first intimation of her husband's jealous suspicions with incredulous astonishment. It is not that, like Desdemona, she does not or cannot understand; but she will not When he accuses her more plainly, she replies with a calin dignity:

“Should a villain say so,
The most replenislı'd villain in the world,
He were as much more villain; you, my lord,
Do but mistake.”

This characteristic composure of temper never forsakes her; and yet it is so delineated that the impression is that of grandeur, and never borders upon pride or coldness: it is the fortitude of a gentle but a strong mind, conscious of its own innocence. Nothing can be more affecting thau her calm reply to Leontes, who, in his jealous rage, heaps insult upon insult, and accuses her before her own attendants as no better “than one of those to whom the vulgar give bold titles.”

“ How will this grieve you,
When you shall come to clearer knowledge, that
You thus have publish'd me! Gentle my lord,
You scarce can right me throughly then to say
You did mistake.”

Her mild dignity and saintlike patience, combined as they are with the strongest sense of the cruel injustice of her husband, thrill us with admiration as well as pity; and we cannot but see and feel that for Hermione to give way to tears and feminine complaints under such a blow would be quite incompatible with the character. Thus she says of herself, as she is led to prison :

“There 's some ill planet reigns;
I must be patient till the heavens look
With an aspect more favourable.—Good my lords,
I am not prone to weeping, as our sex
Commonly are ; the want of which vain dew
Perchance shall dry your pities : but I have
That honourable grief lodg’d here which burns
Worse than tears crown. Beseech you all, my lords,

With thought so qualified as your charities
Shall best instruct you, measure me;—and so

The king's will be perform'd !" When she is brought to trial for supposed crimes, called on to defend herself, “standing to prate and talk for life and hor before who please to come and ear,” the sense of her ignominious situation-all its shame and all its horror press upon her, and would apparently crush even her magnanimous spirit but for the consciousness of her own worth and innocence, and the necessity that exists for asserting and defending both....

The character of Hermione is considered open to criticism on one point. I have heard it remarked that when she secludes herself from the world for sixteen years, during which time she is mourned as dead by her repentant husband, and is not won to relent from her resolve by his sorrow, his remorse, his constancy to her memory,—such conduct is unfeeling as it is inconceivable in a tender and virtuous woman. ... The incident of Hermione's supposed death and concealment for sixteen years is not indeed very probable in itself, nor very likely to occur in every-day life. But, besides all the probability necessary for the purposes of poetry, it has all the likelihood it can derive from the peculiar character of Hermione, who is precisely the woman who could and would have acted in this manner. In such a mind as hers, the sense of a cruel injury, inflicted by one she had loved and trusted, without awakening any violent anger or any desire of vengeance, would sink deep-almost incurably and lastingly deep. So far she is most unlike either Imogen or Desdemona, who are portrayed as much more flexible in temper; but then the circumstances under which she is wronged are very different, and far more unpardonable. The self-created, frantic jealousy of Leontes is very distinct from that of Othello, writhing under the arts of Iago; or that of Posthumus, whose understanding has been cheated by the

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