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pression. When he had been too thoughtful with Hamlet, he "took it out" with Falstaff and Sir Toby. Not that he was habitually melancholy. He had too healthy a brain for that, and too great animal spirits; but in running the whole circle of thought, he must of necessity have gone through its darkest as well as brightest phases; and the sunshine was welcome in proportion. Shakspeare is the inventor of the phrase, " setting the table in a roar;" of the memory of Yorick; of the stomach of Falstaff, stuffed as full of wit as of sack. He "wakes the nightowl with a catch;" draws "three souls out of one weaver passes the "equinoctial of Queubus" (some glorious torrid zone, lying beyond three o'clock in the morning); and reminds the "unco righteous" for ever, that virtue, false or true, is not incompatible with the recreations of " cakes and ale." Shakspeare is said to have died of getting out of a sick-bed to entertain 'his friends Drayton and Ben Jonson, visitors from London. He might have died a later and a graver death, but he could not well have had one more genial, and therefore more poetical. Far was it from dishonoring the eulogizer of "good men's feasts;" the recorder of the noble friends Antonio and Bassanio; the great thorough-going humanist, who did equal justice to the gravest and the gayest moments of life.
It is a remarkable proof of the geniality of Shakspeare's jesting, that even its abundance of ideas does not spoil it; for, in comedy as well as tragedy, he is the most reflective of writers. I know but of one that comes near him in this respect; and very near him (I dare to affirm) he does come, though he has none of his poetry, properly so called. It is Sterne; in whose Tristram Shandy there is not a word without meaning,—often of the profoundest as well as kindliest sort. The professed fools of Shakspeare are among the wisest of men. They talk Msop and Solomon in every jest. Yet they amuse as much as they instruct us. The braggart Parolles, whose name signifies words, as though he spoke nothing else, scarcely utters a sentence that is not rich with ideas; yet his weakness and self-committals hang over them all like a sneaking infection, and hinder our laughter from becoming respectful. The scene in which he is taken blindfold among his old acquaintances, and so led to vilify their characters, under the impression that he is gratifying their enemies, is almost as good as the screen-scene in the School for Scandal.
I regret that I can give nothing of it in this volume, nor even of Falstaff, and Sir Toby, nor Benedick, nor Autolycus, &c, &c, almost all the most laughable comedies of Shakspeare being written in prose. But if it could have been given, how should I have found room for anything else? The confinement to verse luckily does not exclude some entertaining specimens both of his humor and wit.
Hotspur gives an account of a noble coxcomb, who pestered him at an unseasonable moment.
Hotspur. My liege, I did deny no prisoners.
He should, or he should not;—for he made me mad,
To see him shine so brisk, and smell so sweet,
And talk so like a waiting gentlewoman.
Of guns, and drums, and wounds (God save the mark!),
And telling me, the sovereign'st thing on earth
Was parmaceti, for an inward bruise;
And that it was great pity, so it was,
That villainous saltpetre should be digg'd
Out of the bowels of the harmless earth,
Which many a good tall fellow had destroy'd
So cowardly; and, but for these vile guns,
He would himself have been a soldier.
This bald unjointed chat of his, my lord,
I answer' d indirectly, as I said;
And, I beseech you, let not his report
Come current for an accusation,
Betwixt my love and your high majesty.
• " The Coxcomb."—One fancies an ancient Beummell described in this picture, and is led to give Hotspur's contemptuous mimicry a corresponding tone of voice, and doubtless with propriety. For coxcombry, like greater qualities, is the same in all ages,—a compound affectation of exquisiteness, indifference, and hollow superiority. Hotspur's nobleman, Rochester's Jack Hewitt, Etheredge's Flutter, Vanbrugh's Lord Foppington, Pope's Sir Plume, &c, &c, down to Brummell himself, all, we may rest assured, spoke in the same instinctive tone of voice, fleeting modes apart.
» " Took it in snuff."—A. pun; meaning, in the phraseology of the time, in dudgeon. But the pettiest of figures of speech acquires here a singular force of propriety, from its conveyance of contempt.
In this pleasant specimen of the way in which a complainant may be led into self-committals by the apparent good faith of leading questions, I have stopped short of the lecture which the Abbess proceeds to give the wife. The remark with which she
commences it, includes the whole spirit of it in one epigram matic sentence. The passage is in the Comedy of Errors; a play, I think, which would be more admired, if readers were to give its perplexities a little closer attention.
Enter the Abbess.
Abb. Be quiet, people. Wherefore throng you hither?
Adriana. To fetch my poor distracted husband hence.
Angelo. I knew he was not in his perfect wits.
Merchant. I am sorry now that I did draw on him.
Abb. How long hath this possession held the man?
Adr. This week he hath been heavy, sour, sad,
Abb. Hath he not lost much wealth by wreck at sea?
Adr. To none of these, except it be the last;
Abb. You should for that have reprehended him.
Adr. Why, so I did.
Abb. Ay, but not rough enough.
Adr. As roughly as my modesty would let me.
Abb. Haply in private.
Adr. And in assemblies too.
Abb. Ay, but not enough.
Adr. It was the copy of our conference:
Abb. And therefore came it that the man was mad.
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW. All the scenes, actual or implied, in which the Shrew under
goes her course of taming, are brought together in these extracts; so that, as in the instance of the Fairy Drama, selected from the Midsummer Night's Dream, in the volume entitled Imagination and Fancy, they present a little play of themselves.
The Taming of the Shrew, for its extravagance, ought rather to be called a farce than a comedy; but it is none the worse for. that. A farce, in five acts, full of genius, may stand above a thousand comedies. The spirit of comedy is in it, with something more. Several of Moliere's comedies are farces; and so are those of Aristophanes. People whose will and folly are generally in such equal portions as those of shrews, may be frightened and kept down by wills equal to their own, accompanied with greater understandings; but they are not to be tamed in the course of two or three weeks, even supposing them to be tameable at all, or by anything short of the severest rebukes of fortune. Shakspeare knew this, and has poetized his farce and put it in verse, the better to carry off the high and jovial fancy of Petruchio ;- who, it must be allowed, was the man to succeed in his project, if ever man could. He is a fine, hearty compound of bodily and mental vigor, adorned by wit, spirits, and good nature. He does not marry Katharine merely for her dowry. He likes also her pretty face; and, in the gaiety of his animal spirits, he seems to have persuaded himself, that one pretty woman is as good as another, provided she be put into a comfortable state of subjection by a good husband.
Let the reader, however, note the concluding line of the play. I think Shakspeare meant to intimate by it, that even the gallant Petruchio would find his victory not so complete as he fancied.
Scene, in front of the house of the Bride's father, Baptista.
Enter Baptista, Gremio, Tranio, Katharina, Bianca, Lucen-
Baptista. Signior Lucentio [to Tranio], this is the 'pointed day