« السابقةمتابعة »
mending to young authors to study the old English writers, rather than to make Byron and Scott their models. Let them evdeavour to catch the nervousness of Chaucer, the gentleness of Sidney, and the melody and genius of the Fairy Queen.
Art. II. The Dramatic Works of William ShakSPEARE.
1. Character of Pistol.
“ Have we not Hiren here ?” It is one of Shakspeare's greatest merits, that even his subordinate characters are skilfully drawn, and well sustained, throughout the term of their existence. The wonderful genius which could delineate the character of Hamlet, describe the artful wickedness of Richard, the gradual subversion of a noble soul in Macbeth, and give new fervour and pathos to the passionate grief of a bereaved mother in Constance, did not disdain to embody the lighter shades of human character. The Jovial Knight is not here alluded to, for we consider him (we are bold to say it) as important a personage as either Macbeth or the crooked backed tyrant. But we design to treat of one of the Knight's followers—his boon companion, Ancient Pistol—that most delectable of swaggerers. He is not only a bully who, as the boy says, “ hath a killing tongue and a quiet sword, whereupon he breaks words and keeps whole weapons ;" but the gods have made him poetical. The blank verse, the hard words, and endless alliterations, in which he disguises his sentiments, might well cause Falstaff to entreat, “ Prythee now deliver them like a man of this world.” Shakspeare has effected a twofold purpose by giving the Ancient this monstrous jargon, in not only heightening the originality of the character, but rendering it a vehicle of cutting satire upon the absurd taste of the age.
Pistol ranks above Bardolph and Nym—though whether he take precedence from his superior learning, or his louder swaggering, we know not; for as to courage, they might all say with the candid corporal, “ I dare not fight, but I will wink, and hold out mine iron.” The Ancient's reception on his first appearance is rather discouraging, but we must admire the calm dignity with which he repels the abuse of the Knight, mine hostess, and the fair Tear-sheet. How happy are his classical allusionsand the fluent oaths which roll from his lips, might tempt one to exclaim with Stephen, “ I'd as lief as an angel I could swear like him.” Even dame Quickly allows the force of his language when she says, “By my troth, Captain, these are bitter words." But we pass over this scene of our “Hiren's” discomfiture, and hasten to meet him in the new character of a bridegroom—as the loving spouse of Mrs. Quickly, who, with the usual fickleness of the sex, has jilted Corporal Nym, and married his rival. Pistol denies with anger the name of Host, and swears with honest pride his “Nell shall keep no lodgers.” Nell assigns a pathetic rea.son for discontinuing her profession; whereupon Corporal Nym, who has preserved a proud silence, grows indignant, draws his sword, and we are likely to “have incision.” Bardolph, however, interposes with a mighty threat. “He that strikes the first stroke, I'll run him up to the hilts, as I'm a soldier.” Pistol magnanimously sheaths his weapon, as he says, “An oath of mickle might, and fury shall abate." But commend us to the Ancient's manner of treating his creditors. “Base is the slave that pays.” This declaration does not suit Nym's “humour,” and, but for peace-making Bardolph, they would again “ embrue.” He swears by his sword, that the first who thrusts, he'll kill him ; and Pistol, wisely observing that.“ Sword is an oath, and oaths must have their course," drops the quarrel, and promises speedy payment to the Corporal.
Pistol is happy in bis hostess, but “ the stream of true love never yet ran smooth," and the fond pair must separate, for honour calls the Ancient to the field. It is an affecting farewell; his first thoughts belong of right to love, “ My love, give me thy lips ;' his next revert to prudence, “Look to my chattels and my moveables ;" nor does he in this solemn hour forget the shop, “ The word is pitch and pay, trust none;" and at the close, the jealous lover appears, “ Keep close, I thee command.”
We cannot boast much of Pistol's heroism in the commencement of the battle. He echoes most fervently the boy's wish, 6 Would I were in an alehouse in London; I would give all my fame for a pot of ale in safety.” But doubtless he thought of his absent Nell, and that traitor love had stolen away his valour. It is the Ancient's ill luck to come in contact with the blunt Fluellen, with whom he intercedes for Bardolph, entreating him not to let “his vital thread to be cut with edge of penny cord and vile reproach.” Fluellen flatly refuses the Ancient's suit, who exclaims, in virtuous indignation, “Die and be damned, and figo for thy friendship,"--and, in the rashness of his anger, proceeds to insult him. The consequences of his presumption soon visit him; and passing over his valorous rencontre with Monsieur Le Fer, we reluctantly follow him to the presence of the hot-headed Welshman. Pistol is constrained, alas, to eat the scorned and hated leek, and to pocket the sorry groat as a recompense for his cudgeling. But as he eats he swears. He is then left to digest his hasty
meal, and indulges in a pathetic soliloquy, qualified by a spirited resolve.
Well, baud will I turn,
And swear I got them in the Gallia wars. But here we take leave of the Ancient; whether he succeeded in his vocation of cutting purses, whether he acted well the scarred soldier, or shared the fate of his friend Bardolph, a fate of which he entertained a strong abhorrence, styling it" a damned death,” is left to dark conjecture. He does not, however, leave us without a moral; we see the dreary close of an ill-spent life in these words, “Old do I wax, and from my weary limbs Honour is cudgeled.”
2. Sır ANDREW AGUE-CHEEK. Maria. That quaffing and drinking will undo you. I heard my lady talk of it yesterday; and of a foolish knight, that you brought here one night to be her wooer. Sir Toby. Who? Sir Andrew Ague-cheek?
Twelfth Night Act 1st, Scene 3d. While a sea of ink has been shed on the merits of FalstaffJustice Shallow and Slender have met due notice and even Fluellen has had his commentator—Sir Andrew Ague-cheek, tall a man as any in Illyria,” has been left unnoticed. Be it ours, then, to right him, and, as far as lies in our limited power, to raise him to that notoriety he justly claims.
There are many sorts of heroes, or different degrees of heroism. Some are born great,’ ‘some achieve greatness,' and some have greatness thrust upon them. Though a man lack that furious kind of valour, which made the fiery Hotspur think it an easy leap to pluck bright honour from the pale faced moon, he may still possess enough to furnish a tolerable hero. Sir Andrew has not the wit nor the waist of Falstaff, nor the downright courage of Fluellen. He is destitute of the humours of Nym, and the swearing talent and poetic gifts of Pistol; but “he plays the viol de gambo; and speaks three or four languages, word for word, without the book, and hath all the good gifts of nature :" nor in this age, when gold is your only wear, will it be amiss to add that he possessed “ three thousand ducats a year.” That he was not favoured with personal advantages, we learn from the jest of Sir Toby Belch, who, speaking of his hair, says, “it hangs like flax on a distaff, and I hope to see a housewife take thee between her legs and spin it off." This criticism,
which his friend uttered in his presence, so discouraged the diffident Sir Andrew, that he was sain to leave the hope of winning Olivia's love.
Sir And. 'Faith, I'll home to-morrow, Sir Toby: your niece will not be seen; or, if she be, it's four to one she'll none of ine; the count himself, here hard by, wooes her.
Sir To. She'll none o' the count; she'll not match above her degree, neither in estate, years, nor wit; I have heard her swear it. Tut, there's life in't, man.
Sir And. I'll stay a month longer. I am a fellow of the strangest mind i' the world ; I delight in masques and revels sometimes altogether.
Sir To. Art thou good at these kick-shaws, knight?
Sir And. As any man in Illyria, whatsoever he be, under the degree of my betters; and yet I will not compare with an old man.
Sir To. What is thy excellence in a galliard, knight?
Sir And. And, I think, I have the back-trick, simply as strong as any man in Illyria.
Sir To. Wherefore are these things hid? wherefore have these gifts a curtain before them? Are they like to take dust, like mistress Mall's picture ? why dost thou not go to church in a galliard, and come home in a coranto? My very walk should be a jig.--Act 1, Scene 3.
When we meet Sir Andrew again, it would seem that he has fulfilled his intention of reveling. He and Sir Toby enter into a grave discussion upon an important point. Sir Toby indulges in a soothing sophistry, which does not, however, warp the upright mind of Sir Andrew. He sees things as they are, and calls them by their right names; a quality which we fear would render the knight unfashionable in these latter days. What consternation would such a literal man produce in a fashionable circle. A talent for compliment and agreeable flattery he might term hypocrisy-a pleasant flirtation, coquetry, forsooth—and might even venture to style embellishment, that ornament of conversation-lying. We do not need Madame de Genlis' beautiful illustration to convince us that the palace of truth must be a quarrelsome and dismal abode, and that it is necessary not only " to speak truth, but to time it too."
But to return to Sir Andrew. In answer to Sir Toby's proposition, “ that not to be abed after midnight is to be up betimes,” he says in his straight forward manner, “nay, by my troth, I know not, but to be up late, is to be up late.” He has something of an English taste also; for though he allows with Sir Toby that man's life consists of four elements, he thinks that eating and drinking are two of them. Indeed, he acknowledges that he was a great beef-eater : “Methinks, sometimes I have no more wit than a Christian or an ordinary man has; but I am a great eater of beef, and I believe that does harm to my wit.” A shining merit of Sir Andrew is his extreme candour. This en
gaging virtue appears in all his words and actions. Thus, when about to sing a catch, in which the words “ hold thy peace, thou knave," occur, and the clown apologizes for using the opprobrious epithet, he remarks with interesting simplicity, “ 'tis not the first time I have constrained one to call me knave.” No mention is made of his past life; but we should conjecture, from one sentence which escapes him, that he had been disappointed in love. When Sir Toby boasts that Maria adores him, Sir Andrew says disconsolately, “I was adored once too.” I also was an Arcadian.
It is said to be the sum of human knowledge to know thyself, and that increase of wisdom bringeth humility. Both these virtues adorn the character of our knight. While listening to Malvolio's soliloquy, he instantly recognises his own likeness, though not drawn by a partial hand.
Mal. Besides, you waste the treasure of your time upon a foolish knight.
The knight is in love, and therefore jealous; for jealousy is ever the companion of love. The disguised Viola is the object of his suspicions; and his friends tell him he must redeem the lost favour of Olivia by policy or valour. His answer is a brave one :-“ An 't be any way, it must be with valour; for policy I hate : I'd as lief be a Brownist as a politician.” Under the influence of this sentiment, he prepares a challenge and submits it to the judgment of his friends. Will our readers take the scene?
“Sir And. Here's the challenge, read it; I warrant there's vinegar and pepper in't.
Fab. Is't so sancy?
(Sir Toby reads.) “Youth, whatsoever thou art, thou art but a scurvy fellow." Fab. Good, and valiant.
Sir To. “ Wonder not, nor adınire not in thy mind, why I do call thee so, “fur I will show thee no reason for't."
Fab. A good note: that keeps you from the blow of the law.
Sir To. “ Thou com'st to the lady Olivia, and in my sight she uses thee “kindly: but thou liest in thy throat, that is not the matter I challenge thee “ for.”
Fab. Very brief, and exceeding good sense-less.
Sir To. “I will waylay thee going home: where if it be thy chance to “kill me,” —
Sir To. “Fare thee well; and God have mercy upon one of our souls ! “ He may have mercy upon inine ; but my hope is better, and so look to thy“self. Thy friend, as thou usest him, and thy sworn enemy, ANDREW “AGUE-CHEEK.""