صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

comedies. The title cannot be applied to The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Comedy of Errors, Love's Labour's Lost, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, for those are also mentioned in Meres' list as existing in 1598. Can it have reference to the Merry Wives of Windsor, than which no title can be more definite;-to the Taming of the Shrew, equally defined ;-to Twelfth Night, or Measure for Measure, or Much Ado about Nothing, or As you Like it, or The Winter's Tale?--We think not;-we are sure that none of our readers who are familiar with the plots of these plays can believe that either of them was so named. We, of course, here put the question of chronology out of view. Mr. Hunter, to support his opinion that The Tempest was written in 1596, boldly maintains the following opinion :-" But, if not to the All's Well, to what play of Shakspeare was this title once attached? I answer, that, of the existing plays, there is only The Tempest to which it can be supposed to belong: and, so long as it suits so well with what is a main incident of this piece, we shall not be driven to the gratuitous and improbable supposition that a play once so called is lost." The "main incident" relied upon by Mr. Hunter for the support of this theory is the following speech of Ferdinand, in the third Act :

"There be some sports are painful, and their labour
Delight in them sets off; some kinds of baseness
Are nobly undergone; and most poor matters
Point to rich ends. This my mean task
Would be as heavy to me as odious, but
The mistress which I serve quickens what's dead,
And makes my labours pleasures. O, she is
Ten times more gentle than her father's crabbed;
And he's compos'd of harshness. I must remove
Some thousands of these logs, and pile them up,
Upon a sore injunction: my sweet mistress
Weeps when she sees me work; and says, such baseness
Had never like executor. I forget:

But these sweet thoughts do even refresh my labours."

"Here, then," says Mr. Hunter, "are the Love Labours. In the end they won the lady." We venture to say that our belief in the significancy of Shakspere's titles would be at an end if even a "main incident" was to suggest a name, instead of the general course of the thought or action. In this case there are really no Love Labours at all. The lady is not won by the piling of the logs; the audience know that both Ferdinand and Miranda are under the influence of Prospero's spells, and the magician has explained to them why he enforces these harsh "labours." In the first Act, when Ferdinand and Miranda are thrown together, Prospero says,

[blocks in formation]

Would Shakspere have chosen this incident-not a "main incident," for we all along know Prospero's real intentions, -as that which would furnish a title to his play? The pain which Ferdinand endures is very transient; and Prospero, when he removes the infliction, says,—

"All thy vexations

Were but my trials of thy love, and thou
Hast strangely stood the test."

We know that the Love's Labours of Ferdinand are not severe trials, and that at their worst they were refreshed with "sweet thoughts." Can they be compared with the Love's Labour of Helena?

Mr. Hunter rejects the claim of All's Well that ends Well to be named Love's Labour Won most decisively;-but upon one ground only: "If ever there was a play," he says, "which itself bespoke its own title from the beginning, it is this :

[ocr errors]


" We must away;

Our waggon is prepar'd, and time revives us:
All's Well that ends Well: still the fine 's the crown;
Whate'er the course, the end is the renown.'

All's Well that ends Well, yet;

Though time seem so adverse, and meaus unfit.'

"And, as if this were not sufficient, in the epilogue:

'The king's a beggar, now the play is done :
All is well ended, if this suit is won.'"'

We venture to think that the use of the word won in the last line might have suggested to Mr. Hunter the possibility of the play having a double title-the one derived from the one great incident of the piece,—the other from the application of its dramatic action. Mr. Hunter, however, rejects the claim of All's Well that ends Well to the title of Meres, upon the assumption that it could only have had a single title; whilst he seeks to establish the claim of The Tempest to the title of Meres, upon the assumption that it had a double title: "I suspect that the play originally had a double title, The Tempest, or Love's Labour Won; just as another of the plays had a double title, Twelfth Night, or What You Will." This reasoning is, to say the least of it, illogical. If the argument is good for The Tempest, it is good for All 's Well that ends Well.

It is beside our purpose here to enter into the question whether The Tempest was written sufficiently early to be included in Meres' list. We expressed no such opinion when, in our remarks upon Cymbeline, we noticed Coleridge's classification, in which he placed The Tempest in the same epoch with As you Like it, Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Othello. We stated, indeed, that Mr. Hunter had brought forward “several curious facts to render it highly probable that it was produced in 1596;”—and we said, also, that Coleridge, by placing that play in the middle period of Shakspere's life, instead of at the close, had pointed to the "date" which Mr. Hunter claimed as a discovery." But we no more meant by the word "date" to say that Coleridge had assigned The Tempest to a particular year than to a particular month; and certainly we may say that an antiquarian critic may bring forward "several curious facts," and thus render a theory "highly probable," without affirming that no other "curious facts" can be found to upset the probability.*


But something too much of this." Whether, or no, The Tempest, looking at the internal evidence of its date, could have been included in Meres' list, there can be no doubt that All's Well that ends Well has many evidences of having been an early composition-unquestionably so in parts. When Malone changed his theory with regard to the date, and assigned it to 1606, in the posthumous edition of his 'Chronological Order,' he relied principally upon the tone of a particular passage: "The beautiful speech of the sick King in this play has much the air of that moral and judicious reflection that accompanies an advanced period of life, and bears no resemblance to Shakspeare's manner in his earlier plays." The mind of Shakspere was so essentially dramatic, that when he puts serious and moral words into the mouth of a sick King, who is growing old, we should be no more disposed to believe that the sentiment has reference to the individual feelings of the poet than we should believe that all the exuberant gaiety of some of his comic characters could only have been produced by the reflection of his own spirit of youth. "Shakspeare's manner in his earlier plays" has, however, much more to assist us in approximating to a date. The manner-by which we mean the metrical arrangement and the peculiarities of construction—in All's Well that ends Well, certainly places it, for the most part, in the class of his earlier plays. Where, except in the class of the earlier plays, shall we find one in which the rhyming couplet so constantly occurs? But then, again, we occasionally encounter all the music and force of thought of his most perfect blank-verse. Tieck is of opinion that the play, as we have it, contains an engrafting of the poet's later style upon his earlier labours. He says, "Rich subject-matter, variety of situation, marvellous development, and striking catastrophe, allured the young poet, who, probably, later in life, would not have chosen a subject so unsuited to dramatic treatment. Some passages, not merely difficult but almost impossible to be understood, remain out of the first attempt; and here the poet combats with language and thought—

We do not advert to this subject for the purpose of replying to Mr. Hunter's observations in the Gentleman's Magazine for February, 1840, but to disclaim the "sudden conversion" which he there imputes to us.

the verse is artificial, the expressions forced. Much of what I consider later alterations reminds us of the Sonnets, and of Venus and Adonis. The prose, particularly in the last Acts, is so pure and clear, the scenes with Parolles are so excellently written,-that in all that concerns the language we must reckon them amongst Shakspere's best efforts. The first Act is the most obscure; and here are probably the most extensive remains of the older work. The last half of the delineation of Parolles must belong to Shakspere's later period."

Malone assigns his second conjectural date of this play to 1606 upon other ground than that of Shakspere's manner: "Another circumstance which induces me to believe that this is a later play than I had formerly supposed, is the satirical mention made of the puritans, who were the objects of King James's aversion." Surely the poet might allude to the famous contention about wearing the surplice, without being led to it by the aversions of King James. A friend has given us a valuable note (see Illustrations of Act 1.) showing that the contest had been going on for many years, and that Hooker, in his fifth book of Ecclesiastical Polity,' published in 1597, refutes the puritanical opinions upon this matter at great length. Upon the subject of the surplice he distinctly says that the hostility of the puritans was much modified when he wrote. The controversy had raged with the greatest violence at the period when Shakspere, according to our belief, was most likely to have produced All's Well that ends Well,-perhaps not as it has been handed down to us, but in an imperfect form. That period was probably not very widely separated from the period when Love's Labour's Lost was produced; to which, as we do not hesitate to think with Coleridge, this play was the counterpart.


[ocr errors]

educated classes in England at the Whether received by him directly made the character of Helena more

FARMER, as we have seen, says that the story of this play "came immediately to Shakspeare from Painter's Giletta of Narbon.'" The Palace of Pleasure' was printed in 1575; and no doubt Shakspere was familiar with the book. But we yet have to learn that Shakspere was not familiar with the Italian writers, who were as commonly read by the end of the 16th century as the French writers are read now. or indirectly, the story came from Boccaccio. Shakspere has interesting, in some respects, by representing her solely dependent on the bounty of the good Countess, whose character is a creation of his own; in the novel she is rich, and is surrounded with suitors. After her marriage and desertion by her husband, Giletta returns to the country of her lord, and governs it in his absence with all wisdom and goodness; Helena is still a dependant upon her kind friend and mother. The main incidents of the story are the same; the management, by the intervention of the comic characters, belongs to Shakspere.

Instead of wearying our readers by tracing the minute differences between the great Italian novelist and the greater English dramatist, we subjoin Hazlitt's spirited character of Boccaccio as a writer :

"The story of All's Well that ends Well, and of several others of Shakspere's plays, is taken from Boccaccio. The poet has dramatised the original novel with great skill and comic spirit, and has preserved all the beauty of character and sentiment without improving upon it, which was impossible. There is, indeed, in Boccaccio's serious pieces a truth, a pathos, and an exquisite refinement of sentiment, which is hardly to be met with in any other prose-writer whatever. Justice has not been done him by the world. He has in general passed for a mere narrator of lascivious tales or idle jests. This character probably originated in his obnoxious attacks on the monks, and has been kept up by the grossness of mankind, who revenged their own want of refinement on Boccaccio, and only saw in his writings what suited the coarseness of their own tastes. But the truth is, that he has carried sentiment of every kind to its very highest purity and perfection. By sentiment we would here understand the habitual workings of some one powerful feeling, where

the heart reposes almost entirely upon itself, without the violent excitement of opposing duties or untoward circumstances. In the way, nothing ever came up to the story of Frederigo Alberigi and his Falcon. The perseverance in attachment, the spirit of gallantry and generosity displayed in it, has no parallel in the history of heroical sacrifices. The feeling is so unconscious, too, and involuntary, is brought out in such small, unlooked-for, and unostentatious circumstances, as to show it to have been woven into the very nature and soul of the author. The story of Isabella' is scarcely less fine, and is more affecting in the circumstances and in the catastrophe. Dryden has done justice to the impassioned eloquence of the 'Tancred and Sigismunda;' but has not given an adequate idea of the wild preternatural interest of the story of Honoria.' Cimon and Iphigene' is by no means one of the best, notwithstanding the popularity of the subject. The proof of unalterable affection given in the story of Jeronymo,' and the simple touches of nature and picturesque beauty in the story of the two holiday lovers who were poisoned by tasting of a leaf in the garden at Florence, are perfect masterpieces. The epithet of divine was well bestowed on this great painter of the human heart. The invention implied in his different tales is immense but we are not to infer that it is all his own. He probably availed himself of all the common traditions which were floating in his time, and which he was the first to appropriate. Homer appears the most original of all authors-probably for no other reason than that we can trace the plagiarism no farther. Boccaccio has furnished subjects to numberless writers since his time, both dramatic and narrative. The story of Griselda' is borrowed from his Decameron' by Chaucer; as is the 'Knight's Tale' ('Palamon and Arcite ') from his poem of the 'Theseid.'"

[ocr errors][merged small][graphic][graphic][merged small][merged small]

THE Costume of this play, for anything that appears to the contrary, might be either of the age of Boccaccio or of Shakspere. The Florentines and the Siennois were continually at strife during the middle ages, and the mention of a "Duke of Austria" would, strictly, place its date anterior to 1457, Ladislaus, the last Duke of Austria, having died King of Hungary and Bohemia in that year; whilst the allusion to Austria as a power per se would drive the period of action still

further back amongst the dukes and margraves of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It is our opinion, however, that in all cases where there is no positive violence committed against historywhere the foundation of the plot is either fanciful or legendary-that the nearest possible period to that of the writing of the play should be fixed upon as that of its action, as by so doing the best illustration is obtained of the author's ideas and the manners of the age which he depicted. With this view we should place the date of All's Well that Ends Well' just previous to 1557, in which year, on the 3rd of July, Sienna was given to Cosmo de Medicis, Grand Duke of Tuscany, by Philip of Spain, who had been invested with its sovereignty by his father, Charles V. The last war between the Florentines and the Siennois, and in which the former were supported by the troops of the emperor, and the latter by those of France, broke out in 1552 and ended in 1555, the King of France at that period being Henry II., and the Duke of Florence Cosmo de Medicis aforesaid. Our illustrations have, therefore, been taken from Montfaucon's Monarchie Francaise (sub anno), and the Florentine costume is furnished us by Vecellio, which, though a little later, is sufficiently near for the purpose.

The hair was worn very short by gentlemen in France at this time, a fashion which arose from an accident that happened to Henry's father, Francis I., who, in a twelfth-night frolic, was hurt by the fall of a lighted firebrand on his head, and was compelled in consequence to have his hair shaved

[merged small][graphic][graphic][merged small][merged small]
« السابقةمتابعة »