Page images

In many's looks the false heart's history
Is writ”, in moods and frowns and wrinkles strange;

Malone,) that in Cymbeline jealousy is merely incidental. In the Winter's Tale, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, the folly of it is studiously exposed. Othello alone is wholly built on the fatal consequences of that destructive passion. Surely we cannot wonder that our author should have lavished his warmest colouring on a commotion of mind the most vehement of all others; or that he should have written with sensibility on a subject with which every man who loves is in some degree acquainted. Besides, of different pieces by the same hand, one will prove the most highly wrought, though sufficient reasons cannot be assigned to account for its superiority.

No argument, however, in my opinion, is more fallacious than that which imputes the success of a poet to his interest in his subject. Accuracy of description can be expected only from a mind at rest. It is the unruffled lake that is a faithful mirror.

STEEVENS. Every author who writes on a variety of topicks, will have sometimes occasion to describe what he has himself felt. To attribute to our great poet (to whose amiable manners all his contemporaries bear testimony,) the moroseness of a cynick, or the depravity of a murderer, would be to form an idea of him contradicted by the whole tenour of his character, and unsupported by any kind of evidence : but to suppose him to have felt a passion wbich it is said “most men who ever loved have in some degree experienced,” does not appear to me a very wild or extravagant conjecture.—Let it also be remembered, that he has not exhibited four Shylocks, nor four Timons, but one only of each of those characters.

Our author's forgetfulness of his wife, from whatever cause it arose, cannot well be imputed to the indisposed and sickly fit ; for, from an imperfect erasure in his will (which I have seen) it appears to have been written (though not executed) two months before his death; and in the first paragraph he has himself told us that he was, at the time of making it, in perfect health: words, which no honest attorney, I believe, ever inserted in a will, when the testator was notoriously in a contrary state. Any speculation on this subject is indeed unnecessary; for the various regulations and provisions of our author's will show that at the time of making it (whatever his health might have been,) he had the entire use of his faculties. Nor, supposing the contrary to have been the case, do I see what in the two succeeding months he was to recol. lect or to alter. His wife had not wholly escaped his memory; he had forgot her,- he had recollected her, -but so recollected

But heaven in thy creation did decree,
That in thy face sweet love should ever dwell;
Whate'er thy thoughts or thy heart's workings be,
Thy looks should nothing thence but sweetness

How like Eve's apple doth thy beauty grow,
If thy sweet virtue answer not thy show!

her, as more strongly to mark how little he esteemed her; he had already (as it is vulgarly expressed) cut her off, not indeed with a shilling, but with an old bed.

However, I acknowledge, it does not follow, that because he was inattentive to her in his will, he was therefore jealous of her. He might not have loved her; and perhaps she might not have deserved his affection.

This note having already been extended to too great a length, I shall only add, that I must still think that a poet's intimate knowledge of the passions and manners which he describes, will generally be of use to him ; and that in some few cases experience will give a warmth to his colouring, that mere observation may not supply. No man, I believe, who had not felt the magick power of beauty, ever composed love-verses that were worth reading. Who (to use nearly our author's words,)

“ In leaden contemplation e'er found out
“ Such firy numbers as the prompting eyes

“ Of beauteous tutors hare enrich'd men with ?” That in order to produce any successful composition, the mind. must be at ease, is, I conceive, an incontrovertible truth. It has not been suggested that Shakspeare wrote on the subject of jealousy during the paroxysm of the fit. MALONE.

I am inclined to agree with Mr. Steevens upon the present occasion in questioning the truth of Mr. Malone's uncomfortable conjecture. If Shakspeare had been led to the description of jealousy from having felt it himself; and had to the last thought it well founded in his own case, which he must have done, if such was his motive for neglecting his wife in his will, he would scarcely have described it as he has uniformly done in his plays, as being causeless and unjust. Boswell. s In many's looks the false heart's history Is writ,] In Macbeth a contrary sentiment is asserted :

“ There is no art

“ To find the mind's construction in the face.” Malone. “ In many's looks,&c. Thus, in Gray's Church-yard Elegy:

“ And read their history in a nation's eyes." STEEVENS.

They that have power to hurt and will do none,
That do not do the thing they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow;
They rightly do inherit heaven's graces,
And husband nature's riches from expence ;
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others but stewards of their excellence.
The summer's flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live and die;
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity:

For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds:
Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds ?.

XCV. How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame, Which, like a canker in the fragrant rose, Doth spot the beauty of thy budding name? O, in what sweets dost thou thy sins enclose! That tongue that tells the story of thy days, Making lascivious comments on thy sport, Cannot dispraise but in a kind of praise; Naming thy name blesses an ill reports. O, what a mansion have those vices got, Which for their habitation chose out thee ?

6 They are the Lords and owners of theIR FACES,] So, in King John:

Lord of thy presence, and no land beside." MALONE. 7 Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds.) This line is likewise found in the anonymous play of King Edward III. 1596.

Steevens. 8 Naming thy name blesses an ill report.] The same ideas offer in the speech of Ænobarbus to Agrippa in Antony and Cleopatra :

“ For vilest things
“ Become themselves in her ; that the holy priests :
Bless her when she is riggish.” Steevens.

Where beauty's veil doth cover every blot,
And all things turn to fair that eyes can see!

Take heed, dear heart, of this large privilege;
The hardest knife ill-us'd doth lose his edge.

Some say, thy fault is youth, some wantonness;
Some say, thy grace is youth, and gentle sport;
Both grace and faults are lov'd of more and less :
Thou mak'st faults graces that to thee resort.
As on the finger of a throned queen
The basest jewel will be well esteem’d;
So are those errors that in thee are seen,
To truths translated, and for true things deem'd.
How many lambs might the stern wolf betray,
If like a lamb he could his looks translate '!
How many gazers might'st thou lead away,
If thou would'st use the strength of all thy state!

But do not so; I love thee in such sort?,
As thou being mine, mine is thy good report.

How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen ?
What old December's bareness every where !

9 Both grace and faults are lov'd of MORE AND LESS :] By great and small. So, in King Henry IV. Part I.:

“ The more and less came in," &c. MALONE. i If like a lamb he could his looks TRANSLATE !] If he could change his natural look, and assume the innocent visage of the lamb. So, in Timon of Athens :

“ to present slaves and servants

Translates his rivals.” Malone, ? But do not so: I love thee in such sort, &c.] This is likewise the concluding couplet of the 36th Sonnet. MALONE.

3 How like a winter hath my absence been, &c.] In this and the two following Sonnets the pencil of Shakspeare is very discernible. MALONE.

And yet this time remov'do! was summer's time;
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime 5,
Like widow'd wombs after their lords' decease: .
Yet this abundant issue seem'd to me
But hope of orphans, and unfather'd fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And, thou away, the very birds are mute;

Or, if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer,
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near.

From you have I been absent in the spring,
V hen proud-pied April, dress'd in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing
That heavy Saturn laugh'd and leap'd with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds?, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,

4 And yet this time REMOV'D!-] This time in which I was remote or absent from thee. So, in Measure for Measure :

“ He ever lov'd the life remov'd." Again, in King Henry IV. Part I.:

“_ nor did he think it meet
To lay so dangerous and dear a trust

On any soul remov'd.” MALONE.
s The TEEMING AUTUMN, big with rich INCREASE,

Bearing the wanton burden of the PRIME,] So, in A Midsummer Night's Dream :

“ The spring, the summer,
“ The childing autumn, angry winter, change
“ Their wonted livries; and the 'mazed world

“ By their increase now knows not which is which." The prime is the spring. Increase is the produce of the earth.

MALONE. 6 — in the spring,

When PROUD-PIED April, dress'd in all his trim,

Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing ;] So, in Romeo and Juliet:

“ Such comfort as do lusty young men feel
“When well-apparell'd April on the heel
“ Of limping winter treads." Malone,

« PreviousContinue »